My journey in becoming a British citizen started 7 years ago when I moved to Manchester from Australia to live for one year. Little did I know that that was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey in digital tech to now being a British citizen.
At the time, I was on a short term visa and worked as a solicitor until I decided to remain in the UK after being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I entered and won a wearable technology hackathon to develop heated gloves in Manchester. Winning the hackathon gave me the confidence and support to apply for and receive the Entrepreneur’s Visa (now Innovator Visa). The Entrepreneur’s Visa allowed me to live and work in the UK and start my UK company Made With Glove for 3.5 years.
When it was time to extend my Entrepreneur’s visa in 2016, I could not meet the strict criteria and discovered a new visa scheme specifically for people working in the field of digital technology.
The Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa allows highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent in digital technology with exceptional talent to work in the UK either as an entrepreneur or as an employee working in the field of digital technology.
I had no other option but to apply for the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa. If I didn’t apply, my Entrepreneur’s Visa would expire and I would have had to return to Australia. While it wouldn’t have been so bad to return to my family and friends and my old life in Australia, it meant that I would have to stop what I had built and worked so hard for in the UK for the last 3 years and Made With Glove’s future would become unknown.
So while it was very daunting to prove that I was exceptionally talented, I instead focussed on the criteria and my achievements from running Made With Glove.
The real benefit for me was at the time I applied, I was already based in the UK and the CEO and Founder of Made With Glove, Co-founder of Women of Wearables and a STEM Ambassador. I had spent 3 years immersing myself in the Manchester and London tech ecosystem by speaking at and organising events, delivering wearable tech workshops. My blog about my journey into receiving my Exceptional Talent Endorsement and Visa is here.
And after receiving my Exceptional Talent Visa, I became the Tech Nation Visa Ambassador and started a blog series by interviewing fellow Exceptional Talent Visa recipients. In 2 years, I assisted over 100 fellow entrepreneurs with their Exceptional Talent endorsement applications and made a positive impact on their goal of living and working in the UK.
When I was endorsed with Exceptional Talent by Tech Nation in 2016, it meant that in just 3 years, I could apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) visa in the UK then British Citizenship!
The (ILR) or permanent residency (PR) is an immigration status granted to a person who does not hold the right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK), but who has been admitted to the UK without any time limit on his or her stay and is free to take up employment or study. It also means that this person can then be on their way to apply for UK Citizenship provided they meet the criteria for naturalisation.
Being granted an ILR status would provide me with extra security because there is no time limit on my stay in the UK. Previous visas only allowed me to stay for 3 years so an ILR not only provides more certainty, it also means my start up is at less risk because I am the founder who drives the company. My company relies on me being in the UK so the ILR protects my company from any risk of losing its founder and CEO.
Being an entrepreneur is hard. Being a foreign entrepreneur in any country is even harder. My journey to the UK started in 2012 and I’ve had the visa cloud hanging over my shoulders for the past 7 years. It is unsettling to know that time is limited and all travel must be recorded so in addition to all the challenges of running a start up, foreign entrepreneurs are under a different kind of pressure.
Once I passed the challenging Life in the UK Test and applied for my ILR, I became a successful recipient! Read more about how I received my ILR here.
And finally…..British Citizenship!
During the inspirational ceremony, we were congratulated on our achievements on our journey to becoming British citizens and we truly celebrated diversity in the UK. For one afternoon, we left all the political noise outside of the room and focussed on diversity in the UK. Diversity is such an important topic especially in the UK tech sector and especially during these challenging political times due to Brexit. My UK citizenship ceremony was a fantastic experience and marked the end of my 7 year challenging journey of finalising my immigration status in the UK.
In Newcastle with my fellow Exceptionally Talented friend WeiTing Huang who was recently endorsed with exceptional promise by Tech Nation. Read my blog about WeiTing’s story here.
Over the last 7 years, there are just so many people to thank who played a part in my journey. I could not have achieved my goal without the immense support from not one, not two but three amazing UK tech ecosystems of Manchester, Newcastle and London. I am very grateful to everyone who made an impact on both my personal and professional life in the UK. And in particular, my new husband who was with me every step of the way.
And looking back, I have had a fantastic journey. From lecturing at the University of Salford, to delivering wearable tech workshops to girls in tech for FDisrupters in Liverpool, Cisco and Wired Next Generation in London and celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 with Women of Wearables at the Wearable Tech Show in London, it’s been an amazing experience to add value to the tech sector through Made With Glove and Women of Wearables.
Now that I am a British citizen, I can apply for my British passport and finally relax because I feel secure enough to enjoy being an entrepreneur, travel the world with no restrictions and make a positive impact to not only the UK Tech ecosystem but also the international tech ecosystem. With my Vietnamese heritage, Australian and British experience and citizenship, my international experience can only grow and reach new levels so that the world can truly be my oyster.