So as I mentioned before, I left my purse on the bus earlier this week. Stupid. Lucy told me to blame it on pregnancy brain. I will. It took me a little longer to realise that my Foreign National Identity card from the UK Border Agency was in it. Crap. Stupid by a gazillion. I don’t normally keep it in there but it happened to be in there because I’d used it for something.
For those who aren’t all that familiar with the British immigration system, that’s a biometric identity card now issued to foreign nationals applying for leave to remain here. I got it a few months after I married my lovely British husband and decided I should probably stay in the same country as him.
And I don’t have a problem with it. I understand that immigration needs to be controlled – though one might argue that the government has more to be worried about with immigrants from other EU countries who can claim certain benefits than with non-EEA nationals like me who have no access to public funds. But alas, that is another topic.
What I always find hard, though, is feeling a little bit like a criminal going through the process or at least like I’m begging to stay here – just a teeny weeny bit.
This is how it feels when I come through border control on my own. When I’m with Laurence there’s absolutely no problem. But come through on my own and I get interrogated, even though the papers are there, intact. A nice way to come back from honeymoon in Italy, I might add.
I felt this way when they took my finger prints for my first biometric card and I will feel this way again should I have to resubmit my finger prints for the replacement.
I understand why it has to happen and we were aware of all this when we made the decision to marry. To be honest, this is low on the list of difficulties involved in a mixed nationality marriage. Knowing that wherever you raise your children, they’ll be far away from at least one set of grandparents is a tad trickier.
I eventually calmed down from my initial reaction to having to wait 30 minutes on the phone to the UK Border Agency yesterday. Listening to the same music they’ve been playing while keeping people in a cue, for at least the last six years, made me shout into an empty room: “This country doesn’t want me!”
Once that bit had passed, I settled down and thought about why I was so upset. And I think it’s just that this is a blatant reminder that I don’t belong. Not yet, anyway. It’s not that I think belonging is that important generally but clearly, on some level, it is.
And I wonder if it’s because after six years of living here, getting married here and now preparing to have a child here, I want to belong somewhere. Existing in the space between isn’t as easy.
Image: Javier Micora