Today the Migrants’ Rights Network posted part 2 of my guest post for them, as part of the launch of the Family Immigration Alliance.
You can view it here: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/migration-pulse/2012/voiceless-sponsors-part-2
While the government considers the Migration Advisory Committee’s proposals to review the minimum income threshold, less attention has been drawn to the non-economic dimensions of family immigration. Such proposals open up a deeply worrying prospect not only for immigrants, but for British citizens too. The blogsite Family Immigration Alliance hopes to alter this discourse with a human side. Read more…
I found your blog through the Migrants’ Rights Network and wish to share my story. It may not be one that you agree with however. I have frequented, shared and advised on the spousal visa route on immigrationboards.com. I believe that the UK is pushing people into a strange spot; they seem happy to have foreigners here in the UK for economic gain, but dissuade them from falling in love with British citizens. The hoops that people have to jump through are maddening.
My story is not straight forward, and you may not morally agree, but here goes.
We first met in 2008 and I was well aware that he was an over-stayer before we got together in 2009. Little did I know that this man would become my husband. His youth and ignorance led him to this situation; my husband is from a non EU country, with no opportunities in the country and limited freedom to go elsewhere. Since he had arrived in the UK, he had always worked. Though this was unlawful, I feel too that his employers are also partly to blame for this, for not fully checking whether he had the right to work in the UK.
Our relationship strengthened quickly, since we had known each other before, and we are both quite honest and direct people. Did I have my doubts about this man and his intentions? Of course I did, and so did my father, but I went with my instincts. I was also planning to move to Asia for some new experiences and a break from the UK and he said he would come with me. After our relationship became more concrete, we got married in Jan 2010 in is home city, because it would be easier and cheaper and I wanted to meet his family before we married.
So it was done, I moved to Asia, and he followed on 3 months later as I wanted to settle before he came over. We lived in there for a year but encountered intense pressure 6 months later when I started to research how to regularize my husband to get us back to the UK. I certainly did not agree with the decisions he had made and wanted to correct them. I read many forums and cases available online to guide us on what could be done. We thought we could apply from Asia and come back together but in the end we decided that it would be best if I came back and settled to gather all paperwork and he could apply in his home country.
So in April 2011 we were separated. As the English language requirement ruling had just come into force, it meant that he had to travel to Ukraine to book then next available language test a month later. We then had to wait 6 weeks for the certificate, so a total of 10 weeks just to sort out the language test. We thought this was appalling when financial evidence was a lot quicker to process. I had read up on every detail in order to make the entry clearance application. Our file was over 40 pages to justify all 4 sections. My husband admitted to overstaying and working during this time, a risk we had to take – otherwise it could have resulted in a 10 year ban. The visa took only 12 days to process!
I was unemployed at the time but I had significant savings. He came back to the UK in Aug 2011 and again has been working ever since; it’s me who can’t find work at the moment! We now fear a ruling that would extend the entry clearance visa from 2 to 5 years. Life in the UK is expensive, so if a job opportunity came up for me abroad I wouldn’t be able to be separate from my husband and take it since I am his sponsor. It throws uncertainty on our family life and extra demands that could be placed upon us to prove that we are productive enough to stay in the UK. We don’t want to live in the UK indefinitely, but if he is to get British citizenship in order to live elsewhere, then we must. Since his arrival he is facing the financial difficulties of any 18 year old; for example trying to build up his credit rating and his driving history as his years in outside the EU and in Asia do not count.
It will take us longer to build a life here but he is now looking forward to starting up a business. We do feel more optimistic about the future, the recession is pushing us to become more resourceful and self-reliant. He has firm friends here and we feel that UK is a place we can make a life for now.
Just 5 minutes ago I sat watching my wife, via Skype, break down in tears while saying maybe we will never find a way to be together.
Over Christmas, my wife and I met up in Latvia, spending New Year’s Eve together before we were again separated for months. It is interesting to note that when my wife applied for a visa for this trip, the Latvian Embassy charged no fee, because she was visiting her husband who is an EU citizen.
It is heart breaking to talk with my wife in Skype and see the tears in her eyes knowing I cannot simply reach out and comfort her or offer any chance of a light at the end of the tunnel.
I have reproduced an email I sent to my Euro MP, which references letters sent to the UKBA, Prime Minister, and Home Secretary, detailing my actions so far and providing background to our situation.
I along with many other British Citizens believe our rights under ECHR are being breached and hope that this issue can be raised in the European Parliament.
We believe our rights to form a family are being denied by the current government’s immigration rules requiring a non-EU spouse to achieve a pre-entry level of English. Also our spouses are being discriminated against on the grounds of language. My wife, and the spouses of many other people I am in contact with, do not object to a requirement to learn English. We just want an even playing field across providers and the option of being granted entry clearance with a condition to achieve the required level of English within a reasonable time frame.
I am a British citizen by birth and ethnicity. In May 2010 I married a Russian woman in Kaliningrad, Russian Federation. At that time the pre-entry English requirement was not in force however we decided it was a good idea for my wife to take lessons and once granted a visa she would continue to take further lessons in the UK.
It was our intention for my wife to apply for a spouse visa almost immediately. Unfortunately, on my return to the UK, I was made redundant. Due to this we decided to hold off making the application until I found a new job. In the September of 2010 I secured a new position and we began the application process. Due to poor advice from the supposed expert company we employed my wife’s application was refused because her English test certificate was not issued by an approved test provider. We accepted this decision with the view that we should have researched the requirement better ourselves. Although we did think taking professional advice would have negated the need.
We then searched for an approved test provider and found that, in Kaliningrad, the only test available was the IELTS test. We arranged lessons and my wife took the test in March 2011. In April she received her grades which resulted in an overall band score of 4. I checked the UKBA list of test providers and found this to be acceptable. When we began the second application I checked the UKBA website again and found the overall band score of 4 is no longer acceptable. My wife must achieve grade 4 in all disciplines and her grades indicate Listening 4.5, Reading 3.5, Writing 4.5, Speaking 3.0.
I have written numerous emails to the UKBA who fail to respond except for an automated reply directing me to their website. Of course had the answer to my query been on their website I would not need to send them any emails.
I have asked if my wife’s overall band score would be acceptable and should it not be acceptable is it possible to apply for a limited visa that will allow her to study English and take the test in the UK while I support her. I think these are reasonable questions and fail to see why the UKBA cannot respond.
Comparing my wife’s IELTS scores to the CEFR shows that she has achieved at the very least a level of A2. I fail to see why this cannot be accepted and ask if it is possible for the grades my wife has achieved to be accepted with a proviso that she achieves level B1 within 6 months of being granted a visa.
It has always been and remains our intention for my wife to take further English lessons and Knowledge of Life in the UK lessons once she is permitted to come to the UK to live with me as a family.
Since my wife took the IELTS test she has had to change employers and now works 10 hour days with only Sundays off. For this reason it is not possible for her to take further English lessons at this time.
We both understand the reason for the English language requirement however I feel there is no room for manoeuvre when assessing individual applications.
My wife took English lessons at an unapproved centre and achieved level B1 in the test she took at Expert Language Schools in Kaliningrad. Once we knew this was not acceptable she took further English lessons and sat the IELTS test achieving a level of B1 (as specified by the comparison chart between IELTS and CEFR) we accept that, as her speaking and reading grades were not at grade 4, it can be argued she only achieved level A2. However, as the requirement is level A1, this still exceeds the requirement.
I believe this shows a concerted effort on my wife’s part to meet the English language requirement and emailed the UKBA for advice but as I have already said they fail to respond as does the Prime Minister’s office. I also wrote to Liberty, the Human Rights organisation, about our situation. They suggest I request exemption for my wife on the grounds that she has made a concerted effort to satisfy the rules but her current work situation makes it impossible to enrol for further lessons.
I would hope it can be seen that my wife is making the effort and we are quite prepared to accept a condition that she achieves a higher level within a reasonable time.
I was impressed prior to the last election with Mr Cameron’s views on family life and the sanctity of marriage; unfortunately the rigidity of this rule contradicts those thoughts.
For my wife to consider moving to another country is not a decision that is taken lightly and I am hoping that, some compassion can be applied.
I am sure you will appreciate that my wife does not hear English spoken in everyday life and will learn much quicker when this is the case.”
Today I’m pleased to launch the Family Immigration Alliance.
This is a blog for ‘sponsors’ in family based visa applications. In the wake of government proposals on the minimum income threshold for UK sponsors and a UK Bill of Rights, this blog serves as a platform to voice the experiences and opinions of British citizens & permanent residents in family immigration. If you are or know someone going through the turmoil of a family based visa application please link them to familyimmigrationalliance.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Family Immigration Alliance,
Thankyou for the email address to tell you my story. It’s good to know there are others out there who understand the frustration encountered by UK immigration rules.
My story begins in August 2009,when I first started using social networking to keep up to date with friends and family and make new friendships around the world.
I wasn’t looking for love–I had long since given up on dating–and never expected to find it. But one man stood out from everyone else. He was a Nigerian and much younger than myself.
For those 2 reasons, I kept quiet about him to my family and friends. But never had I been treated with such love and respect. This sounds very ”Mills and Boon” I know, but indeed we were in love.
Never a day did we miss to chat–usually online due to phone costs–or by text.
To cut a long story short, I travelled over to see him last summer, by which time I knew most of his life story and about the good and bad points of Nigeria. Not once did i feel unsafe. On the contrary, I felt safe and cared for, as well as respected and loved. More so than in my own country.
We married out there on June 30th. When I eventually told people, they were horrified. I said Nigeria has a bad name, yes, but not to tarnish everyone with the same brush. Just like not ALL teenagers are bad, or elderly people, or any other general group of people.
My husband is a student, who obviously for that reason has little money of his own. Despite that, he paid for everything while I was out there, even when I insisted on paying my way.
After he finishes uni, he has to serve a year in the Nigerian army.
After I came back home, I had my eldest son’s wedding to prepare for in November. My husband has spoken to each of my children on the phone while I was in Nigeria with him, and has my elder son as a facebook friend. My son invited my husband to the wedding. After all, they are now stepfather/stepson. My husband was overjoyed, so I wrote him a letter of invitation which I sent to him with all the relevant documents required.
The plan was to stay on through Christmas and into the New Year.
That was the beginning of our problems. It all went wrong, thanks to UKBA.
They refused him on 2 very petty reasons. One was that his funds mainly comprised of sponsorship money from one of his family members. I checked this out, and nowhere on the UKBA site does it say where aforeign visitor’s money should come from or that the person cannot be a student. Only that the person has enough money to support themselves. WHICH HE HAS!
Reason number 2 was that he has no children back home in Nigeria. What the hell is that all about?? Again I checked this out, to find it’s another rubbish made-up policy.
My husband has had to borrow money to go to a lawyer, having spent all he had on the visa (no refunds on a refusal of course) and paying someone to prepare all the documents. It’s not a simple online/courier service like here in the UK unfortunately. He then had to pay out again to travel to Lagos to deliver the documents. All he has left is the sponsor money, which he cannot use because he needs to hold on to that in the event of visiting here. So now he is broke. Thanks to UKBA and their ridiculous rules.
They know full well he has to go back home. He has university to finish and army service to complete. He did not ask for settlement here; just a visit so he could meet my family, like I have his.
On 20th February, I somehow have to find money to get to Feltham near London to attend the appeal hearing, which they have told me could last all day. I am currently unemployed,and also registered disabled. I cannot ask for help with travel costs because I cannot register my marriage here or change my surname without the marriage certificate–which of course I had to leave with my husband in Nigeria so he could apply for his visa, as it was one of the required documents. The intention was to bring it with him when he came over and deal with all the legal stuff together.
Thankfully, at the moment, I receive over the minimum funds required to sponsor a visitor. But I know the government want to change this soon. That then means there is no hope of me ever seeing my husband again, because I am a lone parent unable to earn such fantastic sums of money while paying out for childcare too. I really think UK do not want us to marry anyone outside their precious EU – and this is against what the Human Rights Act says. They have broken many of the rights in my case.
I dread the tribunal. The expense, the time spent travelling and any time there (I have an 11 year old daughter still at home to consider), the humiliation and anger I am bound to feel, besides which, had they done their job properly, there would have been no need for all this stress. Truly it has made me so ill. And I know my husband feels the same way.
That is my story. It’s sad I cannot even use my legal married name here, though I do use it on daily unofficial correspondence.
I wish you success in your own battle with the bureaucrats, and indeed anyone else in the same boat as us. Here’s to a successful blog site; it feels good to have a gripe.
Susan should-be Fakorede