Love it so much you want to stay?

Today it has been a year since I got out of the United States Air Force after 10 years and decided to live here with my English husband. It hasn't been an easy change, there is a lot of paperwork to be done, but I don't regret a thing.

If you are thinking about staying here, here are a few things to consider:
  • If you are retiring and want to continue to use the facilities (BX, Commissionary, Post Office, etc) on base, you will have to do a minimum hours working on base due to the SOFA agreement. This is good as you are already have a paycheck coming in so while you are looking for work.
  • If you are separating from the Air Force and are wanting to stay here, it can be a lengthy process so plan ahead!
    • Make sure you have enough money to support yourself and family while you are waiting for your visa.
    • You might want to downsize your lifestyle as you know things cost more over here and you will miss the Air Force paying for your housing, food, car tax, tv tax, and the amenities on base.
    • Pay off your debts, especially in this day and age with work harder to find for everyone and it is very hard to translate your skills.
Steps to take:
  1. Get your separation/retirement sorted through the Air Force.
  2. Apply for a visa, you can only do this the day after you are separated/retired.
    • Even though you may have been 2-4 years, you will have apply for a Leave to Remain Visa.
    • I was told I didn't need a picture of my husband through the MPF but at the visa centre in Croydon I was told I needed on. So I rode the train all the way back and went back as I paid for on the day processing.
    • It is more expensive to do it in person, I did it that way in case there were any issues.
  3. Get an National Insurance card, its the same as a Social Security card. 
  4. Let the council know you are no longer exempt from paying council tax.
  5. If you want to drive over here, you have a year to get your driving license.
    • It took me 8 weeks to get mine and this was not cheap.
    • You will have to take a theory and hazard perception test and a practical test.
    • I would suggest driving lessons so they can break your bad habits (I had a lot!).
I know this seems daunting but here is a list of the pros and cons of living over here from my perspective. I will add to this list as I see more things.

  • Slower pace of life.
  • I am learning about patience.
  • My children will be well educated (they are ahead of American kids by 1 1/2 years).
  • I have learned that its not about the stuff I have its the experiences I have.
  • I have lost 30 pounds without trying.
    • I think this is because of a couple of reasons.
      • As you know fast food is not as accessible.
      • I found out a year before I got out I am allergic to milk and soya. So I cannot eat most processed foods.
  • I have free healthcare, which we have used. My husband had a 2.5 ton cherry picker fall on his leg and broke it. After an ambulance ride, emergency surgery and 8 days in the hospital we paid nothing, so it was just like going to a military hospital. Yes, their hospitals are good!
  • They are very traditional, I don't always understand it but I like it!
  • Things happen quickly in terms of laws and rules.
  • They are really keen on recycling.
  • I miss my family.
  • I am still learning everyday and I get frustrated.
  • We pay a lot of taxes but I have free healthcare.
  • Things are expensive.
  • Things take a long time sometimes.
For more information, please see the UK Border Agency website.

Have other questions like the working hours and your rights see the Direct Gov website.

If you have separated or retired over here and have some information to contribute please leave a comment.

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