Limbo: Not so much a dance, but a state of mind


Limbo: Not so much a dance, but a state of mind

My name is American Burd and I’d like to be an expat again, but as many expats know, this is often easier said than done.

As an American, I can move with ease and work throughout the entirety of the ‘States without a passport or visa. With a passport I can travel within the EU as a “visitor”, spending no more than 90 days in any one country without a visa, which is great, but anything more than that involves a much more complicated process.

I’m currently in the process of applying for my UK visa. Applying for a visa is always a tedious process, there’s no real way around it. If I were only going for a short span of time or applying for a student visa, it wouldn’t be so complicated, but I’m not. I’m a researcher, and I’m returning to the UK (if granted a visa) for one year (as an “academic visitor” I’m not eligible to remain in the UK for more than 12 months).

Limbo \ˈlim-(ˌ)bō\ n.

2 a : a place or state of restraint or confinement b : a place or state of neglect or oblivion <proposals kept in limbo> c : an intermediate or transitional place or state d : a state of uncertainty (limbo. 2013. In Retrieved March 26, 2013).

I understand the thoroughness and rigor involved in the process. As a PhD student, I research migration and immigration, so nothing really seems to shock me anymore. I’ve been through the application process several times for several different countries, but this time it feels different and I’ve finally pinpointed why: it’s not the process, it’s me. In the past, I’ve known when I’m going, when I’m coming back, where I’ll be, and what I’ll be doing, this time I don’t. Additionally, the stakes are higher now because my dissertation, the last part of my PhD program, relies on this visa and as much as the lovely people at Citizen’s Advice Scotland have tried to reassure me that it’ll be fine, my nerves are a mess. Believe it or not, but immigration rules in the UK are changing every couple of months and that’s not an easy thing to keep up with.

I’m in limbo, plain and clear. I can’t do anything until I know this visa application goes through and even after that, I feel like life is a bit on hold. If granted a visa for the UK, upon completion of my research, I will be required to leave the United Kingdom and will then… well, I don’t really know, pick up and leave again, I guess. With any luck, I’ll graduate and hit the job market but I’m ready to relocate for an extended period of time. I’ve lived abroad before, but not for any long duration of time, no longer than a year here, a year there. I’m ready to do something different. I’m ready to leave my home country for an undetermined number of years and while I know it’s a possibility, I’m feeling a bit pessimistic at this particular moment in time.

I have a profile on the EU Blue Card Network, but I’m running into a very large roadblock when applying for jobs in the EU. I need to prove that I am legally eligible to work in the country I’m applying to work in (i.e. I need a work permit), but in order to be legally eligible to work in the country, I need a job offer first. Hmmm…

Americans work in European countries as academics all the time, right? Well, that’s what I thought but the more I’m looking into it, I’m starting to wonder how they do this without marrying an EU national. This isn’t so much an EU wide issue; the UK has much stricter immigration requirements and the last month I have come to realize that working and living for an extended period of time in the UK is an unlikely option for me as an academic American and it absolutely breaks my heart. That being stated, I haven’t given up hope and my immediate concern is my “academic visitor” visa and dissertation but this whole visa process has got me thinking a lot about human movement, in general.

Geographic barriers have been broken down by the Internet and replaced by legal ones. Many of these regulations are 100 per cent necessary, but as many of you expats out there know, the process can be tedious, nerve-racking, and frustrating. I wish I could sugar coat the way I feel about it all at this particular moment, but I’m not at that point right now.

Here’s to hoping that my visa application is successful and I’ll find “home” sometime in the near future.

For updates on my travel and visa application, feel free to follow me at:

American Burd
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American Burd is an American PhD student currently residing in the ‘States, but in the process of moving to Scotland. She writes about her travels, love (both lost and found), and living life within and well outside our comfort zones.