June 23, 2009
For a long time, I dated, and was subsequently engaged to, a ghost. This is because, for nearly four years, my now wife did not legally exist.
She was born in South Africa during the Apartheid years. Her father was German and her mother English. Her father passed away when she was very young. Her mother was born in South Africa of British parents, one of whom had been born, in turn, in Southern Rhodesia, back then a self-governing colony of the British Empire. Beyond these overseas imperial Britons, my wife's blood ties to Britain and Germany go back millennia.
My wife's mother spent a number of years in South Africa, working as a British expatriate in various corporate roles during the 1980s and 1990s. By 1999, however, she decided to return with her daughter to the British motherland.
Because my wife was young at the time, she entered the United Kingdom with a South African child passport on the basis of her mother's British citizenship. Subsequently the child passport was upgraded to a full 5-year passport.
The problems began when the latter expired in 2004.
In a sane world, it ought to have been a straightforward procedure for my wife to reclaim her British citizenship in 1999, given her ancestral heritage. Indeed, at the time of World War II, anyone born anywhere in the British Empire was automatically a British subject.
Unfortunately, however, my wife was born in the postmodern age, where a person's heritage has been redefined by enlightened politicians as a social construct with no ancestral basis. Consequently, the small matter of one's nationality is a legal construct to which any featherless biped has equal right of access, pending a bureaucratic process involving politically-correct forms—and (of course) the appropriate fees.
The U. K. Home Office's naturalization forms, therefore, only took into account the applicant's parents' places of birth. It ignored said parents' nationality and country of residence. Because my wife's mother had been born in South Africa, the forms effectively rendered my wife's mother a non-British national, even though she was English, had been a British subject from birth, had resided in England most of her life, and her British parents had merely opted to have their daughter be born in one of the imperial colonies because during the Apartheid years South Africa had better hospitals.
And since my wife's mother was regarded as a non-British national, as far as the bureaucracy was concerned, my wife could not naturalize on the basis of having a British mother—not without a complicated legal process.
The problem was compounded by my mother-in-law's loss of employment in the aftermath of 9/11, which was in turn further compounded by the fact that she was grotesquely over-qualified for almost any job, with a fellowship, two PhDs, two Masters' degrees, a BSoSci. Thus, by the time my wife's passport expired, the costs of legally challenging the bureaucracy had grown well beyond reach. This led to a two-year delay.
Once my wife was in a position to engage specialist lawyers, it took endless months, cubic light-years of paperwork, and torrents of money to ascertain that, as a step prior to reclaiming her British citizenship, she had to, first, renew the South African passport, then, second, obtain indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.
For that, a special application had to be made with the courts—mysteriously, only after my wife had confirmed that she was sufficiently well versed in foreign cultures and religions by passing New Labour's U.K. citizenship test.
The reason the indefinite leave to remain was the more desirable route was that it made it possible to apply for naturalization on the basis of length of residence. Applying without an indefinite leave to remain, it seemed, would have led to the application being rejected.
The lawyers (ironically, like many of those keeping the gates within the civil service, of non-European extraction) stated that the process of naturalization would have been much easier, and indeed less costly, had my wife been "completely foreign". And indeed, it appeared that applicants from Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone, poor, uneducated, instrumentally motivated, and with no blood-ties to Britain, were, after only a few years of residence in the United Kingdom, successfully naturalizing themselves without comparable legal hassle.
You might be wondering why my wife did not simply renew her South African passport in 2004. The reason: Presumably because the security consequences of De Klerk's abandonment of white rule have instigated a furious and still-ongoing brain-drain, the South African Embassy had made it a condition for passport renewal that my wife present them with a letter from the U. K. Home Office (which was to be held on file permanently) stating that she did not already hold, nor had plans of ever obtaining, British citizenship.
Of course, this was untrue. Not inclined to permanently renounce her ancestral birthright, my wife was left unable to proceed.
This was, in fact, how my wife vanished from existence. She was effectively locked her out of having a legal identity. It made her unable to work, open bank accounts, obtain a driver's license, travel, rent property, marry, or register with a university.[VDARE.com note: All of those things are available to illegal immigrants in the United States.] Moreover, it also put her at risk of deportation—but not to South Africa or any other country, for she no longer held a valid passport, but, as she often said, probably to a dinghy in international waters, where she could be conveniently forgotten.
So, after much wrestling with, and throwing gold at the maw of, the shape-shifting anaconda of politically correct jurisprudence, my wife's lapsed passport, an accident of birth and a product of Britain's imperial past, remained an immovable obstacle.
Finally, with no other apparent option, she decided to chance a new attempt at renewing the South African passport.
Here, we had a stroke of luck: either because the rules had been changed, or the forms had been re-designed, during the intervening time, in 2007 my wife found herself able to submit her application without the letter from the Home Office.
The South African passport took many months to arrive. Once she had it, she made an application for indefinite leave to remain in Britain. It took months and cost hundreds of pounds.
And once the indefinite leave to remain had been issued, it had to be endorsed into the renewed South African passport. This took more months and also cost hundreds of pounds.
Thankfully, the paperwork came through in time for our wedding. My wife and I were able to marry in the summer of last year.
Thankfully, also, the London School of Economics allowed my wife to enroll for a correspondence [= distance learning] degree, so she was able to obtain a university education.
That I write an article complaining about the bureaucratic perplexities and contortuplications of current British nationality legislation for VDARE.COM, an American immigration reform website, will seem ironic only in the largely foreign-originated Freudo-Marxist scholasticism of postmodern academia. For VDARE.COM readers, it will be obvious that a Motherland that is generous to distant strangers while reneging on her own children is a dysfunctional Motherland.
Or, at least, a Motherland forced to do the inexplicable by Left-leaning utopians, ethnic radicals, and corrupt political opportunists—both the product and the beneficiaries of the "anti-racist" worldview of the intellectual elite, who have held Britain hostage since the end of World War II.
Their ascendance in the wake of the British Empire's dismantlement has left many overseas Britons without adequate legal sanctuary or a cogent legal identity.
Until the academic fraudsters and the corrupt political elite are fumigated out of the centers of learning and purged from the seats of power, not just Mother Britain, but also Mother Europe, will continue increasingly to spurn her own progeny—however bright or capable—in favor of distant strangers of arguable merit and questionable motivation.