Border Line: Long-term UK visa hangs in balance during two-week stay in LA
One of my favorite writers, Bill Bryson, wrote a book entitled: I’m a Stranger Here Myself. I’m starting to grasp exactly what this American ex-pat in England means.
That’s because, as I write this post, my wife and I find ourselves back in Los Angeles—my base of operations for 32 years and hers for 12. Yet now, nine weeks removed in Scotland, it’s no longer our home.
This not so little detour couldn’t be helped. Like all Americans, we can’t stay legally in the UK for more than six months without some sort of extended visa. In our case, her company stepped up and offered to help us secure the necessary paperwork to allow us to settle in for three years. If all goes well during that time, we’ll look to renew that visa for two additional years with the possibility of establishing residency status. UK Immigration refers to this as “indefinite leave to remain.” I call it the golden ticket to a golfer’s paradise.
Several key steps along this bureaucratic path had been taken before we began to establish a presence in the Scottish Border’s town of Kelso. But the final push, including collection of our biometric data (i.e. fingerprints and retina scans), required us to be back on U.S. soil.
So we’re here, at least physically. But emotionally? That ship has sailed.
The upside is we’re experiencing Southern California somewhat like this region’s many tourists who only see the good parts. Like the weather. And the diversity, in people, cultures and food. A tangible example of the latter was yesterday’s lunch at a one-off Mexican restaurant in the mid-Wilshire district. After a fairly steady diet of pub food back in Scotland, our taste buds practically danced for joy.
Meanwhile, this new perspective allows us to largely ignore the negatives. Like the sky-high cost of living. And the traffic clogged freeways that aren’t nearly as infuriating when you’re not in a huge hurry to get somewhere.
These two weeks will also likely confirm that we’ve made the right decision. Two days into it, I’m not sensing even a trace of mover’s remorse. While there are many people here I dearly miss, most notably our three 20something daughters, my LA roots run surprisingly shallow. Kind of shocking given that I’ve spent the majority of my life here.
Instead, I am buoyed by fresh memories of a 4th of July weekend in the Highlands, where I travelled with three UK friends to play in three open competitions—at the quirky and claustrophobic Dunning Golf Club, the top-drawer Royal Dornoch and the Old Tom Morris-designed Tain. And I can look forward to more of the same in the very near future, along with day trips to a seemingly endless supply of undiscovered gems among Scotland’s more than 500 golf courses. Do the math: I could play a different course every week…for the next 10 years! How awesome is that?
Still, until our U.S. passports are back in our possession, there remains a very tiny possibility that Scotland’s links turf could be pulled out from under us. So I’m doing my best to resist the temptation to count my Scottish golf experiences until they materialize. Yet, how could I not focus on the 99.9 percent chance this dream will come true rather than the .1 percent chance that it won’t? The latter, especially now that I’m limboed in Los Angeles, is unthinkable.
After all, our move was recently documented by none other than Golf Digest’s David Owen on his entertaining blog, “My Usual Game.” If the game’s leading publication says I belong in Scotland, then it simply must be true. Right?
In just seven working days, the time required to process our visas, we’ll know for sure. To quote Tom Petty, another of my favorite artists, the waiting is the hardest part.