When I was growing up, one of the many lessons my father taught me was how the world opens up when we have choice. The best way to generate choice in our lives is by educating ourselves, whether it be the traditional route of earning university degrees or simply reading a lot of books, gaining experience in a new trade, traveling the world, or even learning a new language.
Having the ability to visit, study, work and live in a country other than where we were born is a gift and in my opinion, one of the most important elements of a well-rounded education. The importance of travel for our education is yet another lesson my father taught me and for this reason he took our family on a vacation to somewhere new every summer, many of the destinations international. His example played a significant part in my decision to spend a semester abroad in Florence when I was studying for my undergraduate degree at a university in America, the country in which I was born.
My desire to live in another country started to heat up in my early 20s, especially after I became close with a group of New Zealanders who were living in the US for a few years to play rugby. After spending time with these warm people and hearing about their foreign culture and land, I wanted to move to New Zealand. At the time I applied for and was granted a special type of one year “work abroad” Visa for people under 30, a program designed to link up American travelers like myself with odd jobs in other countries such as picking fruit.
Turns out I never went to New Zealand due to unforeseen circumstances, but I did come across an ad in the local paper several months later leading me to my first job in the gambling industry with publisher Casino City. My role with Casino City involved all sorts of travel around the world, introducing me to people from places such as London, Vancouver, Tel Aviv, Costa Rica, Malta, Manila, Johannesburg, Sydney and so on.
Over the course of the five years I worked for Casino City, I traveled to London at least once a year and fell in love with the area and the gambling professionals who lived there. I was dying to relocate to London, but knew it would be an uphill battle figuring out how to legally make the move.
In early 2009, around the time when London was calling, my good friend Calvin Ayre reached out and wanted to talk to me about a concept he had come up with, a concept for a gambling industry “tablog” which was eventually launched as CalvinAyre.com. Calvin wanted me to serve as the Lead On-Site Reporter for the site, conducting interviews and hosting videos while covering conferences around the world.
Seeing as this was the job opportunity of a lifetime, naturally I said yes to Calvin and we agreed I would work remotely from the US for a year and then decide where I should be based, London and Antigua being the two candidates at the time. After one year, we agreed London was the most appropriate location but an American can’t just move to London…we need a work Visa which can be an enormous pain to obtain, if not impossible.
Clearly fate was on my side because I was able to secure one of the last UK Tier 1 Work Visas in existence, they were literally abolished several days after I applied. The coveted Tier 1 Visa (RIP) was not attached to a company, only to the individual and they were relatively easy to acquire if you had enough “points”- points accumulated by university degrees, salary level, proof of savings, proficiency in English, etc.
Once my Tier 1 Visa was granted in early 2011, I had two years to live and work in the UK freely with the ability to renew my Tier 1 status for another three years so long as all the terms were met. After a total of five years of living, working and paying taxes in the UK under Tier 1 status, I was eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
I received my ILR in 2016 after providing mounds of paperwork to the Home Office and passing a “Life in the UK Test”, 24 multiple choice questions based on British history, culture and laws, questions I guarantee you most British-born citizens would not know the answer to. All candidates are required to answer at least 18 of the questions correctly, otherwise they must re-book and take the test again.
The way the UK system currently works is once you have ILR, one year later you’re eligible for citizenship, a surprisingly simple and efficient process, at least according to my experience. I submitted my citizenship application in late January 2017, received a letter from the Home Office three months later confirming my application was accepted and my citizenship ceremony was booked for May 11, 2017, the final step to becoming a British citizen.
It just so happens my parents were in town for a visit on May 11th and I was able to invite them both as guests to my ceremony, a gathering of 15 or so soon-to-be British citizens and their guests, during which we pledged our allegiance to the Queen, received our British citizen certificates and had an opportunity to take plenty of pictures.
The ceremony was an emotional experience and I was the only American in the group, other countries represented included Australia, Canada, Uruguay, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Italy and Nigeria. All I kept thinking throughout the ceremony was, “I can’t believe I’m here, I cannot believe Calvin Ayre and the success of CalvinAyre.com are responsible for opening up my life like this”.
When I reflect back on my early days in the online gambling industry, I can clearly remember telling my friends I wanted to move to London and I can clearly remember telling my friends I wanted to work for Calvin, two things I spent time focusing on and two things that came to fruition with hard work and positive thinking.
If you want something and focus on it enough, the universe has its way of delivering it to you- this is something I truly believe in and has actually happened to me. While a job is never forever, my British citizenship is forever and I have Calvin Ayre, CalvinAyre.com and positive thinking to thank for that.