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My Immigration Story | Acknowledging my Privilege

Hello, my name is Camila and I’m an immigrant.

It’s funny for the longest time I called myself an expat – still do on some catchy bios of mine. My idea was that being an expat was temporary. It’s the privilege of being a student abroad, or doing a youth mobility visa or even a short term stint abroad. To me that’s not really immigration.

But let’s face it, I’m in my fifth year of living in Scotland and my current visa status is on the road to permanent residency.

I still don’t know if I’ll be here long term – my gut feeling is no, but we never know what the future might throw at us – but I’m pretty settled. I have a permanent full time job, I live with my British man in the house we bought together, I have friends across the country, I’ve learnt the particularity of the language and habits. Scotland is my home. So now more often than not I refer to myself as an immigrant. (I’ll often refer to myself as an immigrant just to make a point – especially to those cough cough in my Brit’s family who voted Tory/Brexit.)

The path to being at this stage of our lives has been a long road. Not that long when I think of family and friends who have dealt with real immigration trouble, but to us it’s been a journey.

I can’t however talk about my immigration story without mentioning how privileged I’ve been/am.

I am white. (While I don’t consider myself ‘white’, I can definitely pass, which is a privilege.)

I’m privileged to be from Canada, a pretty chill country without much restriction on liberties or trouble with other countries. Being from Canada is the reason I got the youth mobility visa that allowed me to stay in the UK for an additional 2 years after my student stay.

I was privileged to come study at the University of St Andrews. And getting scholarships, grants and loans to help me do so.

I am highly privileged to have the family I have. They are amazing, and so supportive.

I’m privileged to have met an amazing British man. A relationship that has allowed me to stay in the Uk and feel at home. I’m privileged and he’s a privileged person too. He’s been privileged financially, which has allowed us to purchase houses and never worry about a roof over our heads.

Our visa application took nearly four months. That’s four months that felt like an eternity. But I’m aware that for others the fight for a stable immigration status takes years.

My job search in Scotland was difficult throughout my youth mobility visa. It really affected my self-confidence and ideas of self-worth or even ideas that everything I had done up to that point, all the sacrifice, had been useless. But the minute I had a stable immigration status, the job offers came raining down on me.

These are all privileges that I acknowledge and am thankful for.

My perspective also comes from my family history. My father and my uncle were refugees from Chile to Canada decades ago. This is why I believe in helping refugees/asylum seekers as best as we can. From personal experience, I know that they don’t leave their country lightly.

I also believe in immigration. I believe immigration helps empower and enrich countries, and opens the mind of its citizens. 

While I’ve struggled in my immigration journey, I’m aware how privileged I have been. But I stand with refugees and immigrants alike.

Here are a few charities that focus on supporting refugees here in Scotland and the UK, if you want to learn more, help or donate:

Scottish Refugee Council
Refugee Action
Breaking Barrier
Refugee Council
Refugee support through British Red Cross

*I wrote this post back in mid-2017, but finally thought it was time to share it. I touched on this subject when I wrote about receiving my spouse visa last year, but, inspired by Amanda, I thought it was time to take a stand.*

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