My heartfelt thanks to everyone and anyone who has ever posted a message on these boards. Were it not for you, I wouldn't be here. This board has been incredibly useful through all stages of my journey, from my initial HSMP to ILR last week at Cardiff. The advice I received here was ESSENTIAL. So thank you all for making this possible. I wish we could all meet at the pub so I could buy you a round!
I know many people have already shared their experiences, but I feel compelled to share mine giving my special circumstances.
ILR Success at Cardiff, 23 February, 2011
* Came here initially under HSMP in July 2006 having applied before Apr 2006 (so was able to apply for ILR under the Judicial Review and after only 4 years residence)
* Extended my stay in 2008 under Tier 1
* Only just realised a couple months ago that I was eligible for ILR and had been since last July (d'oh!)!
* I used to work as a banker, but have been self-employed since 2008 and my income comes from a hodge-podge of sources. I am a freelance writer with several clients, though one is the main source of my income. I am also in a partnership with another self-employed individual. I also have a part-time teaching job with a university where I'm classified as an "employee". I don't have a business account and I don't have an accountant. All of my income goes into the current account.
* I spent 229 days out of the UK over the last 4 years, 113 of which were business trips. You can imagine my panic when I read on the boards that the limit for absences is 180 days!
Having read all of the advice here, I put together a primary file (used a big plastic envelope and clear plastic folders with labels to separate everything) and a back-up file (in a big plastic portable file).
3. Dates outside the UK spreadsheet
4. Original HSMP and Tier 1 Letters
5. Self-Employment Explanatory Notes
6. Employment letter from client
7. Employment letter from university
8. University payslips for current financial YTD (online printouts)
9. 12 months bank account statements
10. HMRC SA302 Tax Calculation
11. HMRC SA300 Tax Statements
12. P&L for Self-Employed Income
13. P&L for my partnership income
14. Copies of all of the above
* Invoices I've sent to my clients
* Self Assessment tax returns
* Extra passport photos
* Bank statements from parntership business account
* Original HSMP and Tier 1 Applications
* Utility bills
* Payslips from former banking job
* NI Card
* Anything I've ever received from HMRC
* All bank statements
My experience at Cardiff:
I took contemporaneous notes throughout so you might want to make yourself a cuppa before reading this.
Appointment was scheduled for 11:30am.
Arrived at 10:45AM - plenty of Pay & Display parking on the side street (max 5 hours, Â£3).
Went through security - they took all electronics (mobile phone and camera in my case).
Checked my name on appointment list and asked me to have a seat.
Name was called within 5 minutes.
Went to a window and sat down on a bench. A very nice lady asked for my paperwork and I handed her the main file. She looked through my file and asked me some questions - am I planning to leave the UK in the next 28 days? Why did I choose the premium service?
She also asked if the paperwork I gave her was everything I have. I told her I had a back-up file as well and she asked for that, too (this surprised me - from what I've read here, many have had more than they needed and the HMRC person only asked for a select few documents. In my case, they wanted everything).
Was told it takes 2-3 hours to process and I should go into cardiff to "get a bite to eat or do some shopping" (like I could afford it after paying the ILR fee). Someone would call me when it's time to go back and collect my things. Again, a surprise - I thought most people met with the case worker personally but not here! But before I did anything else, the kind lady said I should first I should go to the next window and pay. I used a Visa Debit (Natwest) and they had to call the bank for authorisation (cashier was very apologetic on this matter). It all went through, I collected my phone, and headed out into the world, a pile of nerves.
I left the building at 11:15AM and did as I was told. I went for a coffee at the "Cafe R" next door, took some notes, then wandered down to the Islamic Relief Fund nearby where I found some amazing deals on second-hand clothes.
At around 1pm, while shopping, I got a call from the case worker, a very nice gentleman who had some questions for me, some rather strange. Here's how it went, in brief:
Him: "Are you aware of the judicial review?" (Wouldn't this be obvious as I checked the box on the application?!)
Me: "Yes I am."
Him: "So you know whether it applies to you?"
Me: "Yes, I applied for HSMP before April so I qualify."
Him: "Okay, I just wanted to make sure you're aware of the JR."
Me: "Thanks." (Bewildered.)
Him: "Do you have a list of your absences here?" (shuffle of papers)
Me: "Yes there should be a spread sheet."
Him: "Ah here it is. Good. Do you have a letter confirming these business days?"
Me: "Yes, it should be there from [client name]."
Him: (shuffle of papers) "A here it is, good good. And you've also work for [uni name]?"
Me: "Yes I do."
Him: "Okay, well that all seems to be in order. I'll give you a call back shortly when the paperwork is ready for you to collect."
Me: "Okay thanks, bye!"
He was a friendly man but how vague is that last statement??? I wasn't sure what he was telling me. I got the gist that he wanted me to talk him through some bits and pieces and in retrospect, I think he was also saying that I got ILR. But jeez, he could have been less subtle!
I went to a coffee shop (appropriately named "a shot in the dark") to wait for his call.
The call came close to 2pm. I returned to the office (by now all the parking places were taken!) where a man gave me a letter saying "these are the terms and conditions of ILR." Again, no explicit statement of "success!" But when he finally gave me the letter confirming the ILR, I knew it was real.
My letter states that I've been deemed as having been given ILR on 22 August 2010, thus backdating to the date when I was initially eligible to apply. Annoyingly, although I came in July 2006, I came through Ireland and didn't have a UK passport stand for July! I did have a stamp for August thanks to a holiday in Spain, so they had to base my validity on that date (kind of annoying but oh well). So, I can apply for citizenship this August. Very excited.
I filled out a customer satisfaction survey and noted that I felt the application rules could be more transparent about what documents are accepted. The HMRC worker and I talked about this about - he was very nice and took some extra notes.
I left the building at 2:15pm with my ILR success letter and a big smile on my face.
A few notes and learnings:
* The Cardiff office is fine and the staff are VERY friendly
* The letter from my client confirming business trips seemed to make the absences a non-issue
* It may have helped that I am also employed with a university, albeit part-time
* For letters and the spreadsheet, I used the formats already posted on the boards
* I drove with my mom and dog to Cardiff and sent them to do their own thing for an hour when I went in for the appointment. I felt rather silly when they let me go shortly after I arrived! Had to wait around for mom and pooch to really do anything. So if you bring any company along, tell them to hang tight at first so you can meet up with them while you wait!
Thanks again to everyone for all of your shared experiences and advice. These boards are truly an indispensable resource.
Happy to answer any questions.
Best of luck,