Update: Lionel’s story and the Leaked Letter

You may remember Lionel’s Story from a couple of months ago, who’s wife from Russia was unable to enter the UK due to marginally failing to meet the pre – entry language requirement.

In response to the leaked proposals on family immigration, attempting to implement a £25700 minimum income threshold, Lionel has written a response which he’s permitted me to repost here.

And so after jumping through hoops to satisfy already implemented rules the rug is finally pulled from under my feet. I currently earn £19000 pa. Prior to redundancy, caused primarily by failed govt policy and a bias towards the haves of director level, my salary was £25000. I took work at over 50% less than my previous salary to avoid claiming benefits. I then continued my search for better paid work so lifting my salary closer to my original salary.

Had my wife and I made an application immediately after our marriage instead of waiting until I found a new job, at the time we thought this the right thing to do, my savings of over £19000 would maybe have been sufficient for a visa to be approved. Please note this was pre english requirement.

But we tried to do the right thing in all areas. I reduced my outgoings, sold my house and bought one with a lower mortgage repayment. Took into account the need to avoid overcrowding, stayed in a job that I truly dislike, paid for numerous English lessons and tests only for the questions to be absolutely ridiculous. Cambridge see an overall score of 4 in IELTS as level B1. UKBA see things differently and will not accept the overall band score as sufficient. My wife failed speaking by 1 point which in my mind equates to level A2 but not in UKBA’s mind.

Now the bar is to be moved so high that we cannot hope too meet the requirement.

I appreciate all the support gathered from reading other peoples encounters with the UKBA and its pathetic ministerial head but now comes the time to cut our losses.

I am not old but on the same score not young at 52. The new house is up for sale and I will relocate to a European country that embraces the idea of family life. A country where my Russian wife and I can live out the remainder of our lives.

Good luck to everyone else and roll on the day when these ludicrous rules and barriers prove to be the downfall of May, Green, Cameron and Clegg.


Lionel Barnes

(This was originally in response to the Migrants Rights Network article Leaked family reunion proposals: Tough if you’re an ethnic minority, a woman, suffer from a disability, or don’t live in London…..)


A Social Media

It’s been an exciting few weeks for the Family Immigration Alliance, and with hesitancy on the announcement of the family immigration proposals it has provided time to collaborate and reflect on objectives.

I’ve been encouraged to find others with using the same methods lately, to gather the stories of immigrants in a particular area of immigration, and publicise them. This recognition that the voices of immigrants are all too often left out of the media discussion has prompted some interesting activity, in one instance from a particularly big hitter.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has started its campaign on student immigration, called “share your story”. Take a look at their facebook page: International Students Against UK Immigration Changes. International students are invited to “rant, moan and say it all”, and with good reason. In this recent Migration Pulse post , Daniel Stevens cites some upsetting (and easily empathised) stories of students unable to attend funerals because of UKBA passport holding, students forced to leave the country because of trivial application mistakes, or forced to repay the fee for the same insignificances. I’ll be fascinated to see the impact of their campaign, and am pleased to see them getting regular newspaper coverage from their news feed.

From a contrasting origin, a newly started website I was recently asked to contribute to, www.immigrantworkerslondon.com, has been gathering experiences from a much wider perspective on the affects of immigration restrictions on individuals. To its advantage, it’s run by trainee journalists, and they focus on recording audio interviews with the people they come across. To hear a few minutes of my interview with them, check out their website, and the broad range of experiences they are cataloguing on the site.

The one thing the FIA and these other examples all have in common is that the contributors have reached the end of their tether. The sheer audacity of the proposals and ignorance to the silent hardship that immigration rules cause, has driven immigrants, commentators (and family members of course) to do exactly what the NUS has called on its students to do – rant, moan and say it all.

The catharsis of the process, as cited here before, is a way of making yourself feel better in the short term. But in the longer term, it’s becoming a method of prompting change and influencing public immigration discourse, and – hopefully – policy.

It’s also encouraging that independently from each other the response to the frustration felt in distinct areas of immigration has been to pool these human experiences. If those from such diverse approaches to the issue have resorted to this mechanism of support and publicity, then it lends credit to the hope that it really is a salient and effective method of influencing the public perception.

Last week, the Migrants Rights Network hosted their Annual Networking summit. In a panel discussion with Enver Solomon of the Childrens Society, the role of anecdotal evidence was discussed as a really strong force in immigration debate. He cited MPs as particularly receptive these stories.

So, collectively, the role of social media in immigration looks incredibly decisive. With the aforementioned time we seem to have gained in the area of family immigration, there is a lot of potential to shape the debate, and soften areas of a frequently anti-social media, before a decision is made.

I would strongly urge you to share your stories and experiences in family immigration on this page. Better still, encourage your friends and relatives affected by family immigration rules to write up their experience. This doesn’t have to be on visa applications/appeals but the predicament the very prospect of it can through you into. The threat of separation by visa can end relationships, spousal or otherwise; and this is a story that is just as valid here.

If you feel your experience of immigration has been unfair to you, there is no better time to make it count for something.