A.M.’s Story

A.M., Italy

 

I’ve been in the UK for the most part since 1984 which I gave as entry date because that’s when my National Insurance was issued. I’ve never been out of the country for more than two years. Like many others, I never thought it necessary to apply for anything such as ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and the idea of the UK leaving the EU never crossed my mind. I’d heard about the automatic right to Permanent Residency (PR) after five years and thought all you had to do was to live here. I was also under the impression that you could only use periods ending after the regulations came into force in April 2006; I had a continuous period of work from 1996 till 2003, six of those years in the same place, but I’d not heard of anyone applying on the basis of a period ending that long ago.

In 2004/05, I spent some time abroad, but it wasn’t even a year, so it wouldn’t invalidate previously acquired residence rights. I then worked on a PAYE basis from 2005 till February 2008, then I set up a limited company to work on a project for a big financial services company. I worked there the full year but paid myself as dividends, because I didn’t know how to set myself up as both an employer and an employee. Then the credit crunch hit and I did just a few bits of freelance work, but also had to turn to JSA (Job Seeker’s Allowance) in 2009. Then, in 2010, I got a permanent job, but when I’d just been there over a year, when the owners put the company into liquidation. They made everyone redundant and we had to claim from the Insolvency Fund. I didn’t qualify for redundancy. The owners carried on operating out of the same premises, doing the same thing for the same clients, etc. using another company they had, and asked me to work for them as a “freelancer”.

I went to work at 9am the following morning like nothing happened, and it was pretty much business as usual, only I had to invoice them using my limited company every month. I did tax returns for the company and paid myself mostly dividends, that was before the new tax on dividends from 2016. In April 2012, I went to OZ/NZ and they hired a young temp to cover for me while I was away. When I got back, they decided to keep him on indefinitely till, in the summer of 2014, the workload went down to the point that it was no longer necessary to have two people doing the same job. One of the owners decided to get rid of me and keep the “temp” on. As I was invoicing, he didn’t regard me as an employee and didn’t follow any process, just told me “this is it”.

I sought legal advice and got an ex barrister who teaches at the University of Kent in Canterbury to represent me through their law clinic. He said I had a very good case and a claim was issued in the Employment Tribunal in December 2014. At long last in January 2016, I received a judgment in my favour: I had been unfairly dismissed.

I was unemployed all the while from Aug 2014 till the time I applied for PR in June 2016, the day before the infamous referendum. I spent two weeks digging up all my old paperwork. I have everything from 2004 and some earlier stuff but it wasn’t exactly filed. I was going to apply as self-employed and started gathering bank statements, however, when I read the Home Office (HO) guidance I realised I didn’t have any of the paperwork for self-employed people. Out of interest, I read the guidance for workers and there it was, amongst the list of alternative documents: “employment tribunal judgment”. What are the chances!!!

I then put together my application on the basis of being a worker from May 2010 till August 2014 and attached my contract of employment and payslips from the year I was employed, Insolvency Fund paperwork relating to the company liquidation and a printout of the two judgments. Both were sent to me as PDFs by email, there was never a hard copy and I didn’t have them stamped, just printed them out and attached them with an explanatory note, both about my employment and the fact that they were only available as PDFs. Also attached the covering emails from my solicitor.

I worked for four years, three months and three weeks, the rest I was unemployed and provided proof of JSA and job seeking. I wasn’t sure I’d get accepted. Then the vote came and the FB groups were set up and I found out you could apply using an earlier period even if it ends before 2006 so 1998-2003 was going to be my Plan B, but it was going to be an uphill struggle to find the evidence, although I worked in the same place all those years, then proof of residence from 2003 and absences, when I did spend nearly a year abroad.

I applied before the online form and passport return service were set up so had to use the paper form and send my passport. I was also under the impression that you had to withdraw your application to retrieve your passport. At the beginning of October, I had not yet received the card and I had to travel rather urgently, so I found the document return facility and requested my passport on a Monday night, the postman delivered it on Saturday. I was away for nearly a month and came back to a card saying a signed for item was taken to the local PO where it would be kept for 18 calendar days, then returned to sender. I went to the PO around 21 days after the date on the card, not expecting it to be there, and I couldn’t tell what it was. The PO guy gave me a funny look and said: “what, October 26th?” I said I’d been away. He rummaged and couldn’t find it, then went to the back room and, after a lot of digging, there it was! A big, fat envelope with a cheap looking blue card and all my paperwork! PHEW!

They gave no indication as to the date I acquired PR, I think they just started printing the date on the covering letters in December. I read about the fast-track SAR (Subject Access Request) and sent one of them to ask for my IT records and for the date when I acquired PR. The HO first sent a letter to say they were processing my request and I shouldn’t attempt to contact them in 20 days, then they replied with all sorts of screenshots but not a date in sight!!! I then wrote a letter specifically asking for the date and finally got a response. Once more, I was away at the time but this wasn’t sent signed for. They gave me PR from May 2015, five years after I started that job. That’s over thirty years after my entry date, but good enough for citizenship without having to wait till October!

What a saga, uh?

 

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