So you’re a non-UK citizen in post-referendum UK? Feeling worried about the future? Alienated? Helpless? Here are some things you might want to consider doing.
Write to your MP!
WHY? When the Brits are unhappy with their lives, it seems that the go-to solution is “write to your MP”. Many foreigners feel that because they don’t have the right to vote in general elections, their voices will not be considered by elected representatives. This is not the case. As constituents, you have rights and you can raise queries – and it’s your local MP’s job to respond to them. (This is also true of under-18s in the constituency: they too cannot vote, but MPs are still required to speak up for their rights.) Writing to your MP is particularly important now, since on November 3rd the High Court ruled that the Parliament must vote on whether the UK can leave the EU. (This decision is being appealed at the Supreme Court in early December.)
HOW? Well… Write to your MP. Remember, write to your MP. They are obliged to respond to their constituents, but not to other people’s. Not sure who your MP is? Find them here.
In your letter, address a specific issue and ask for a concrete outcome. Ask about an upcoming vote, and explain why it is important to you or other people in your community. Suggest actions for the MP. We’ve also got some more general information on writing to your MP which you might find helpful.
You are also encouraged to attend an MP’s surgery, or office hours within your constituency. This might provide a greater opportunity for discussion.
Write to other politicians
You might try writing to the MEPs who represent you, and encourage friends in other EU countries to write to their MEPs too, stressing the importance of continued involvement in EU science programmes.
You are eligible to sign parliamentary petitions – in this case the term “UK resident” refers to “someone who is resident in the UK for at least 6 out of 12 months.”
Start with this one, which asks that any deal with the EU preserves access to EU research funding programmes.
Stay up-to-date with campaigns
Have you signed up to the Science is Vital mailing list? We’ll send periodic e-mails to let you know what we’re up to, and how you can get involved campaigning for science. You can also follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
Another very relevant group is Scientists for EU (@Scientists4EU, or Scientists for EU on Facebook). They campaigned for Remain in the run-up to the referendum, and are now sharing information on things you can do for research in its aftermath. Follow them to find out more.
EU citizens – get that permanent residence card!
WHY? With the current political climate it is a safety measure. I fear that a couple of years from now a permanent residence card could be an essential when applying for jobs – it is better to be prepared.
HOW? Are you eligible? You should have lived in the UK for at least five years – and fulfilled other criteria, outlined here.
The process is, unfortunately, not as straightforward as it might seem. Bear in mind caveats such as the “comprehensive sickness insurance” – which you might not have had if you came to the UK for university studies. If you had picked strawberries for the last six years, like a good immigrant, you’d be a Brit by now; but if you chose to do a PhD instead, you might be going back to square one! Read more about this requirement here.
A useful thing to remember is that local authorities, such as city or county councils, offer nationality checking services. They will check if your application form is completed correctly, and if your supporting documentation is appropriate. This is not a free service, but it is likely to save you a lot of time and grief later in the process.
Engage at your workplace!
WHY? You are very likely to not be the only person at your workplace affected by the EU referendum outcome. Get together with some like-minded individuals (be they UK citizens or not!) to provide support and encouragement.
HOW? Try to organise a meeting with a lawyer for the EU employees to assist with queries about permanent residence and immigration (e.g. will parental leave contribute towards the residency requirement?). If you need some guidance, or an example to follow, this is what Imperial College did – and what company or institution wouldn’t want to be like Imperial College?
The group itself can also provide support. This may come in handy if an international employee is being harassed on the basis of their nationality or ethnicity. Identify whether helping you and the others might be in line with the company’s policy (e.g. through promoting diversity, employee welfare etc). Identify “safety points” at work – welfare officers, diversity deans, etc.
Finally, you can encourage each-other to campaign: write those letters, share the responses you get, and stay up-to-date with other things you can do. If it’s appropriate, you might even want to invite your MP to your workplace to show them how EU citizens are adding to UK research.
Do science outreach
WHY? This shows the general public that immigrants are not just lazy benefit scroungers. Getting people enthusiastic and knowledgeable about science is generally good for the society, especially now that we’re flooded with heaps of unfiltered information. Also, maybe there is still a chance to convince the UK that perhaps it does need experts after all?
HOW? There are plenty of initiatives such as Soapbox Science, Pint of Science, or I’m a Scientist, get me out of here! Give talks at schools and interest groups, talk about your research in a pub, do science stand-up comedy. If you’re looking for a creative outlet, just get in touch.