Lionel’s Story

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.

“Dear Sir,

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.”

Lionel Barnes

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One Comment on “Lionel’s Story”

  1. […] may remember Lionel’s Story from a couple of months ago, who’s wife from Russia was unable to enter the UK due to […]


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