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Immigration: A battle worth fighting

Becky Stewart

Getting in is simple

This August will mark the eighth year I’ve been in the UK.

I first came from the US in 2005 to study for a MSc at the University of York.

I then moved to London where I was offered a government funded PhD place with the Centre for Digital Music – a research group within the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London.

I finished in 2010 and stayed on as a postdoctoral researcher assistant for a year before deciding to make the leap to start a business with my co-founder, Adam Stark.

2 years on

As we approach the 2 year anniversary of forming Codasign, we are incredibly proud of where we are now. We have a social enterprise that employs 9 instructors teaching programming and electronics to artists, designers, and children.

We work largely with open source tools and platforms like Arduino, and we’ve worked with arts organisations such as SPACE, the Whitechapel Gallery, the V&A, and the Tate.

While running Codasign, I’ve also co-founded Anti-Alias Labs, a creative technology studio that brings engineering and software development expertise to interactive installations and projects.

It’s where I put into practice the skills that I teach at Codasign.

However, I’m currently struggling to stay in London and continue to work with either of my businesses.

I benefited from the Post-Study Work Visa, a 2 year visa which no longer exists. It allowed me to set up my businesses and begin to build a case for applying for an Entrepreneur Visa.

As I applied to transition from a Post-Study Work Visa, the monetary requirement of access to £200,000 is lowered to the still difficult, but more achievable £50,000.

Six visa applications later

I am privileged enough to come from a family financially able to support to me, but this requirement is extremely frustrating as the application does not consider turnover or trading (other than if you’ve traded at all).

This is my sixth visa application to continue my stay in the UK and I’ve never previously had an application rejected or needed legal representation.

I’m now paying for the advice of a solicitor, may need a barrister and am going through a second round of appeals against my denied visa.

My passport was submitted with the initial application and I won’t get it back until I’m either successful or am asked to leave the country. I made my application in February and have been advised that it’s unlikely I’ll see my passport before Christmas.

I’ve now missed multiple business and personal trips. While the cost of the process is becoming prohibitive (the application fee alone was £1020 when I applied and every appeal has additional costs), the inability to travel is becoming even more stifling.

It is causing me to question how much is worth sacrificing to stay in the UK, my home for the past 8 years, instead of just moving back to the US.

The extra turn of the knife is that, if ultimately successful, I will be repeating this process in 3 years, as this is a 3 year visa.

My story is hardly unique.

While politicians and business people are working to bring a spotlight to the Shoreditch area, people with the very skills needed to grow the tech industry are being forced to leave.

London will struggle to be competitive and make the impact on the global stage that this government is so desperately seeking if these shameful immigration restrictions are not addressed.


Becky Stewart is Founder at Codasign. image credits: Tim Mitchell  flickr/dannyman

Becky took part in our immigration roundtable last month, we’ll be publishing the results of the report later this week.

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