Making foreign moves easier
When Cha'von Clarke-Joell moved to England she thought her Bermuda passport qualified her for employment. It should have, but a government official at the nearest Jobcentre office saw things differently.
After a year struggling to get the national insurance number she needed to work, she gave in and ordered a British passport.
“A different agent took my application and passport,” Ms Clarke-Joell said. “The first thing she said was, ‘You didn't need to get a British passport'. I almost cried. At the time I was in a university programme but that was only two days a week and I could have been working all that time.”
Since then she has learnt her experience is common. Her advice to other Bermudians is: “Come with a British passport.”
After four years living in Kingston-upon-Thames in London, she has lots more wisdom to impart to newcomers.
That is why she and her husband, Dwayne Joell, and another Bermudian, Quita Ebbin, launched UK Relo Connect Limited in May.
The business offers educational advice to students who wish to attend school in the United Kingdom. It also advises adults on the best places to live within their budget and needs.
UK Relo also helps to find accommodation and schools for their clients and even offers a VIP concierge service.
They will meet people at the airport and spend up to five days helping them settle in.
“Getting off that plane is so scary,” Ms Clarke-Joell said. “It is a reality check. You are there with all your stuff and you are thinking, ‘What if it doesn't work out?'.
“What if that happens, suppose this happens ... imagine having a friendly face to pick you up from the airport.”
She said moving to England was a humbling experience.
“Because Bermuda is so small you get involved in so many things,” she said. “I felt like I lost myself in the move. I had to fully redevelop who I was.”
She said it can be lonely if you don't know anyone.
She initially moved to England for her son Kaiias-Giannis's education. He was 12.
“We tried public, private and home schooling in Bermuda and nothing worked,” said Ms Clarke-Joell.
“He was experiencing some bullying in the school system. The only option was for us to see how he could make out overseas.
“We had to make the move quite quickly, so I decided the best option for me was to further my education by pursuing a master's degree.”
She did some research ahead of time and knew that British landlords often ask immigrants for up to six months rent in advance, or require a guarantor who makes £50,000 ($66,000) a year. She had that sorted. Still she wasn't prepared for the reality of trying to find a new place. She said: “I thought we would stay in a hotel for a day or two before we found a place. Instead, we stayed in a hotel for two weeks.”
It took a while to find a neighbourhood that was close to both her son's new school and her own university classes.
“A lot of people I know spend a lot longer than that in a hotel,” she said.
One thing she didn't expect to encounter was racism, but she faced it in two jobs she held.
“I was suffering anxiety because of some poor decisions that my superiors were making in terms of how they were working with me, and how they were communicating,” she said. “I was sick for five months.”
During that time she started thinking about starting her own business.
“I was getting awesome work opportunities, but I wasn't getting the satisfaction working for someone else,” she said. “Quita and I started talking about it last September and it was finally launched in May.”
She said some Bermudians who move to the UK think it is going to solve all their problems.
“It depends on the social status of the person,” she said. “If they are looking for benefits they may think when they come off the plane a house is waiting for them.
“In different regions of the UK there are different amounts of time you have to live in the UK before you are eligible for benefits. In one region it might be six months, in another it might be a year,” she said. “Before you come you need to know that.”
Ms Clarke-Joell said they had taken some criticism from people in Bermuda.
“We had a very influential person question a service that would help people leave their country,” she said. “We are not encouraging people to do anything.
“We are saying that if this is something you are thinking of, we would rather give you the support and help you along the way, versus having another Bermudian show up at the airport with nowhere to live.
“We are trying to work with people to make good decisions, so we have fewer Bermudians who are looking to be on benefits.”
• For more information see www.ukreloconnect.co.uk