© Guardian/Sara Lee
There's a postcard on my fridge door in London, which a South African friend sent to me 18 months ago. A replica of a Puffin picture-book cover, it has an illustration of mountain peaks below which are emblazoned the words "Everest is climbed!" My friend had already climbed the same metaphorical mountain that I had just reached the summit of, and when she had reached the top she sat down and wept, much to the surprise of all her British friends. "I knew I could stay," she had told me, describing the emotion of the moment, "finally, I knew I could stay." I might not have wept, but I did turn wobbly-kneed and lean against my kitchen counter for support the day my letter arrived from the UK Border Agency to say I'd been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.
Five years previously, when I had entered the UK on a Writers, Artists and Composers visa I thought the road to settlement, and then citizenship, was flat and paved. As long as I could maintain myself financially, continued to work as a writer, and didn't break any laws, I'd be eligible for ILR in five years, and citizenship a year later. And then there would be a citizenship ceremony to end it all, which seemed a pleasant enough idea. I'm all for rituals to mark moments of significance. But I wasn't prepared for the mutable nature of immigration laws
, and their ability to make migrants feel perpetually insecure, particularly as the rhetoric around migration mounted. "I didn't think that would affect someone like you," a large number of Brits said to me over the years, with the implacable British belief that if you're middle class you exist under a separate set of laws. They weren't entirely wrong
- the more privileged you are in terms of income and education the more likely it is you'll be able to clear all hurdles. It's only the rich around whose convenience immigration laws are tailored.