Lucy’s story

I’m a British Citizen and a full time U.K resident. I’m 29 years old and 6 months pregnant with my first child. My partner is Albanian but has lived most of his working life in Greece. I travel a lot as a languages student and first met him on one of my study trips abroad about 8 years ago. We were just friends to begin with and stayed in touch over the years via the net and mutual friends. We would see each other from time to time whenever I was in town for a coffee and a catch up. I spent the whole of last year on a study trip in Athens and it just so happened that our friendship blossomed.

I found out that I was pregnant in March 2012 and was pretty amazed. I knew straight away that it was the right thing for me and so did my partner, we felt very lucky to have found each other again and to have this wonderful thing happen to us. I read Teresa May’s proposals a couple of months later.
As it was, my partner and I were planning to wait a year before attempting to settle down properly and felt that we should probably stick to that even though the baby was coming. We were going to wait until after I graduate next year and then have him come and join me in the U.K to do the childcare while I completed my teacher training. We were hoping to visit each other in the meantime, him come here for the birth and Christmas and me spend next summer with his family on their farm in Albania. We felt very happy and privileged, even though neither of us have very much money.
Under the new rules all that has changed. My partner will not be able to join me until I am earning £18,600, which could be up two years away for me. He will not be able to support me and be there for our child as I qualify. A scary prospect for me and a sad one when I think of how his and our baby’s relationship will be affected. We talked about extending the length of time that we spend visiting each other; 6 months here and 6 months there for the next 2 years but of course that will cost money and as a single parent and a student I don’t know how I’m going to be able to earn the sort of money that we will need and I won’t be able to spend long periods outside of the country whilst training to become a teacher.
At the moment we are concentrating on getting him here on a visitor’s visa for the birth so that he can meet his child and be there for me during labour but this is starting to look unlikely too. Apparently, now that the law has changed the Entry Clearance Officer will be very suspicious of applicants who appear likely to overstay. For us this is absurd. Why would either of us want to make such an undesirable choice for ourselves and our baby? We are young and have our whole lives ahead of us. If he overstayed we would ruin every opportunity for ourselves to be together in the future. We would never dream of making such a ridiculous choice but it seems that that doesn’t matter, if the ECO feels that he is ‘high risk’ they will refuse the visa. And he will be seen as high risk, because he is Albanian and will be travelling from Greece. Socio-economically, my partner is undesirable. As we are not married nor qualify as Unmarried Partners due to the short length of our relationship we won’t be entitled to appeal any refusal.
We feel trapped by our circumstances. I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own country! I can’t leave, I have a degree to complete, the only chance at my being able to earn the money we would need to qualify to be together. But what will it be like for us, our baby not knowing his father. I feel so guilty that my country is doing this to them, to my partner and my son. Our family has literally been ripped apart before we’ve even had a chance to get started. Together we would be a strong, functioning, happy unit but like this we are in tatters. It’s pure destruction. I really hope we can change this soon for all of our families.
Lucy x

Michael’s Story

This is a post taken from a comment left on Chez’s story and highlights some of the nonsense sponsors are forced through, not to mention the apparent confusion around these new rules. More information about use of savings in meeting the income threshold can be found in the UKBA’s statement of intent.

 

I, too, am a UK citizen (born here) who returned to the UK from 10 years in Australia in June to work. My son is also a UK citizen but my partner has Australian and US citizenship. I have a full-time permanent job with a salary well in excess of the financial requirement, plus sterling in bank accounts here and even more to be transferred from the sale of our house and cashing-in superannuation in Australia – hundreds of thousands of pounds, all up.

But my wife was told that she could not apply to enter the UK, except as a temporary visitor, until I had been in employment for six months. Given that it takes another two months to issue a visa, that means eight months living in Australia alone and where we have sold up, or coming here temporarily and returning to Australia for two months. This is a direct consequence of the July changes.

The situation is, frankly, bonkers. We have been married for nearly 40 years . My partner lived and worked in the UK between 1973 and 2002. I lived here from birth to 2002 (I am 64) and worked from 1965 to 2002. We both graduated from English universities. We paid tax, have National Insurance numbers, and neither of us has any history of claiming benefits, except for one six-week period in the 1980s when I was unemployed and received less than £200. Even more bizarre is how the six-month rule would work if we had private means and did not want to work, which could be the case as my pensions have kicked in if I wish to access them.

As with Chez, our situation is totally irrelevant to the government’s supposed rationale for bringing in these changes. Indeed, quite the opposite. I was deliberately recruited internationally for my ‘expertise’ (such as it is).

I know that those most affected negatively by these new crazy rules will be those who are worse off financially and in other ways – but perhaps it will do something to change the government’s mind when it realises that ‘nice’ middle-class people are being trapped by them, too, and the damage this will do to the international movement of labour. I work in higher education which is a global activity highly dependent on international recruitment.

 

Edit: The ‘6 month’ advice mentioned above appears to have been given incorrectly with respect to the savings Michael has, which should be sufficient to sponsor a spouse under the new rules. This testifies at least to the sponsors now have in establishing whether they are eligible to live in the UK with their spouses and inadequacy of consular services in explaining the changes to British citizens overseas.

Edit: the 6 month advice actually derives from the application form! See 5th comment below


Chez’s story

I, myself a British Citizen, my young family, along with my British parents have been planning to move back to the UK for well over 12 months. We were in the final stages of organizing our move for early next year when we have all been shocked to learn of a hastily passed bill which will now stop us being able to settle in the UK. I am a New Zealander with a British passport and have previously lived, worked and attended high school in the UK. My husband who I married in early 2008 and my young son are New Zealanders. My entire extended family and my Fathers only other living relative, his sister, are all in England.

I had already researched visa applications for my husband and under the old Married Settlement Visa requirements we were more than eligible. We have the sale of our home and my husband would work full time. I had been in talks with a Visa Specialist over here for the last 12 months and everything had seemed rather straight forward. I contacted them on the 10 th of July to tell them to get the ball rolling when I was informed that as of the 9 th of July instead of my husband being able to gain immediate Indefinite Right to Remain due to us being married for over 4 years, we would now need over 72,000 GBP in the bank or I, as his sponsor and with our young son, would need to be making over 22,000 GPB a year. If I am able to get a British Passport for my young son then the figures would be slightly less than this as he would not need to be under the sponsor scheme –but either way it’s a hefty price tag. The policy appears to be a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t consider a family’s real expenses. Wealth in things such as house equity are not even taken into consideration. I would imagine that the majority of households currently would not meet this requirement.

Putting a price on immigration prevents the poor from migrating, while not curtailing the movement of the wealthy. The system only takes into account the British Citizens income, this will clearly have a very differential impact on women. According to ‘The Migration Observatory’, 61 per cent of women will not qualify. Surely this is a case for the Court of Human Rights? It leaves no room for stay-at-home parents even if their non-British partner earns much more than the threshold.

If this legislation is intended to stop illegal marriages and prevent people using the welfare system and tax payers money it has been poorly thought out. All this does is isolate people like us who would have done nothing but paid our taxes and lived responsibly.

We are being caught in a crossfire and it is discriminatory. The new law is supposed to ‘’clamp down on bogus marriages and family visas, with migrants ending up on benefits from the taxpayer’’. This is in no way relevant to ourselves, or the many other people who are no doubt going to be affected.

New Zealand is part of the Commonwealth – clearly this means nothing these days!

Chez


Protest meeting at parliament

Yesterday advocates and NGOs gathered to protest against the rule changes to the family immigration rules.

It started with a protest outside the Home Office, with some creative chanting, singing and acting to explain the rules.

We all moved along to a very well attended meeting at parliament afterwards chaired by Lord Judd, hearing Keith Vaz, Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Churchill, a fellow sponsor and promoter of the impact on ordinary people.
A full run down of speakers and their comments can be found here: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2012/07/family-migration-lobby-parliament-brief

I also got to speak and cited some of the experiences I have been contacted about through the FIA. Now really is the time to speak out and make yourselves heard, from here on we’ll ourselves speaking alongside many other family sponsors caught unaware of the rule change.

The rate of stories and enquiries I’ve received has really increased since the announcement, and I anticipate many more. Please let others you know in the same situation know that I would welcome their stories.

Full transcript below:

The reason I wanted to speak today is very simple. I believe that the right to a private family life, which I was born with, is about to be subverted.

It’s been abundantly written and discussed so far how disproportionate and unfair the family immigration rules are to vast swathes of the public; particularly to young people, who with challenging employment prospects, and now dwindling recourse to public funds of their own, can now be denied the simple human happiness of a married life too.

I find myself reiterating that I don’t object to being asked to support a spouse if they fail to find employment. But what these rule changes implement, is the wilful ignorance to the spouse’s financial contribution to the family and the needless exclusion of 3rd party support, producing huge inconsistencies and in my opinion a second class of citizens.

To highlight the inconsistency, and the stratified citizenship that follows for sponsors, I wanted to bring up an example of a person who contacted me recently with an enquiry about their situation. This was a South African man, living in India with a British wife and two British children under 4. He asked in disbelief whether these rule changes were really going ahead, and that despite the fact he provided the chief income for the family, that it would be his wife, a part time child care assistant, who would have to demonstrate the £18600 income threshold. Without knowing the finer details, I concurred that this seemed to be the case and added that it could potentially be higher with the two dependents. After some investigation with the MRN and JCWI it transpired that this wasn’t the case, because the children were British. So that was a small relief for him. But it stunned me that for the shear arbitrariness of the fact that these two dependents were British, they, as dependents, would be omitted from the threshold.

We are told that the reason for this income threshold is to prevent people (who as it stands cannot claim recourse to public funds) from being a burden to the welfare state, and that sponsors need to be able to demonstrate that they can support immigrant family members. But where there’s no need to demonstrate that you can support British family members as well, the point becomes entirely moot and to me begs the question that if the economy is forcing this change, then what’s stopping the government from rolling out an income threshold across all families UK, irrespective of their Non-EEA status. At least then we’d all remain equal in our rights, or lack thereof.

Ultimately, a policy of this nature cannot operate for long, before this schism in purpose and outcome widens to a point of embarrassment.

And I’ll go even further to say, we won’t lose this campaign. It’s the kind of harsh and festering inequality that will unfortunately push more and more migrants and citizens into active opposition, as families increasingly find themselves inadequately reflected in these rules, and incapable of making an ordinary, unobtrusive life here in the UK.

I can cite myself, and I’m sure many others of you here as examples of this. Just over a year ago I was not an activist, I had never been to the houses of parliament and had no idea about this level of immigration policy. But I was returning to the UK, from poverty and near homelessness with my New Zealnder wife, where with support from parents we have since been able to set a self sustaining life together, without recourse to public funds.

But when you’re angry and put out, unsupported by your government and facing an uphill battle to attain nothing more than what your friends and family with British spouses have, then complaining becomes your only course of action.

What the government seems adamant on not mentioning is that they are threatening to split apart people’s families. So without resorting to a Braveheart like cry of freedom, I know you all agree when I say that this is patently, morally, wrong.

To the proponents of these rule changes, I’d like to say that for you this has been the easy bit. You will have more to answer for as awareness of this injustice increases, and ferocity of objection with it. Families will endure, and their sense of injustice will intensify; because there is literally nothing more important to us than our loved ones.

But for opponents to the rule changes, I think it’s a positive outlook. Yesterday there were reports of a U turn on the international students cap, and I know that the power of personal testimonies has been a significant feature of the NUS’ ‘share-your-story’ campaign against it.

So our job is remarkably easy. The stress and inconvenience of being unable to live with your spouse or simply having the spectre of visa application hanging over you is difficult to ignore, and all we have to do is keep telling people how upset this makes us.

The only pang of disappointment I have today is that my government feels that it’s OK to chance-their-arm in ruining people’s lives and deny them one of their most fundamental human rights in their pursuit of reducing net migration. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to maintain our right to a family life, but I have supreme confidence that there is a no angrier and more hurt group of people than family sponsors, to make sure we get it back.

The government cannot economise families, like they can the welfare system. And we are not just collateral damage

Chris

FIA


Gary’s story

Gary’s Story

I am a 43 year old British cititzen. I have a full time, permanent, promoted position in education (Depute Head Teacher at Kirkwall Grammar School). I have been married to Kristee for 9 years. I have a 15 year old stepson, Kyle, and we have a 3 year old daughter, Nyah. Kristee, Kyle and Nyah are all Australian citizens.

The UKBA are insisting that my wife and kids travel to Australia to apply for the ‘proper’ entry clearance to return to the UK. This is despite the fact that they were previously issued with ILR visas when we last lived in the UK in 2006! This would mean that I would be faced with a terrible choice, to either:

(i) Not see any of them for around 6 months or
(ii) Resign from my job and travel to Australia with them to a situation of homelessness and unemployment there.

Supporters of ours have started up an online petition in order to try to get the UKBA to act in a decent and compassionate way, consistent with the expectations reasonable-minded people have of their government.

Please visit our online petition (by clicking on the weblink below). Our petition, to date, has been signed by almost 1000 people including over 60 parliamentarians. It contains links to press articles about our case which have apppeared in the local, regional and national press. It also contains a link to an interview of our family at our home in Orkney in Scotland. This interview was aired on Scottish Television on 19th June 2012.

Kindly visit our petition and sign it, if you are happy to do so. You may also wish to add a link to it on your Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. in order to help spread the word?

Kind regards

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keep-the-boyd-family-together

Gary Boyd B.Ed. M.Ed.
Deputy Head Teacher
Kirkwall Grammar School
Kirkwall
Scotland


Leila’s story

My name is Leila (I am a non-EU spouse) and my husband is John, he is British.

I arrived in the United Kingdom in 2007 on a student visa to pursue postgraduate studies. After my studies I worked at one of the universities (the home office always mentions about access to public funds, here I would like to emphasize I diligently paid all the required taxes for the whole period of my employment) where I met my future husband, John. We had been in a relationship for two years and got married in summer last year and shortly after this I had to leave to my home country following the immigration rules to apply for a spouse visa.

I applied for a spouse visa as soon as I arrived in order to join my husband in the UK and was refused after 4 months waiting. The application was refused on the basis of the requirements of adequate accommodation and maintenance even though we showed our bank savings (which were ignored) sufficient to maintain ourselves and we provided information from our third-party sponsor who was willing to support us if necessary. We appealed the decision and only in the end of March this year we learnt the date of the court hearing which was scheduled for this summer.

All this time after the visa refusal we went through technically and financially burdensome visa procedures and travel arrangements to unite in other countries due to impossibility to get settled in the UK. It was impossible for us to live back in my country because we could not obtain an entrance visa for my husband (due to specific political situation). Plus in this situation it is difficult to plan and get a stable job, to arrange a rent, to get a suitable ticket booking due to constant uncertainty! So you can imagine how much money we had to spend to re-book our tickets (due to late visa issuance or “million” other factors which we could learn only during the process), to pay extra money for rent/hotels (often while searching a short-term rent), to pay all the calls to home office/tribunal from abroad and of course to call each other (apart from £826 paid for the spouse visa)!

In the beginning of this year I got pregnant and in summer this year we decided to come to Europe because here we can be together (I had to obtain a visa) and in hope we can still obtain my UK spouse visa and fly directly to the UK (which is easier than from my home country) and this would also help us to avoid complications with formalization of the immigration status of the baby. But until today we can not resolve this visa situation – no answer from the court (time exceeds 10 day notification period), no specific answer from the home office as to how long to wait at this stage.

While in Europe we had to go through immense stress. To get an access to state healthcare I have to obtain a residence permission which can take up to 3 months! To apply for a dependent form for access to the healthcare system in Europe from UK it may take 8 weeks to process the application plus I am not sure whether I am eligible in view of my visa situation. Private clinics are extremely expensive plus the money I had to pay in one of the private clinics I still can not get reimbursed by the insurance company I purchased my medical insurance policy from before my travel. So private clinics are not a solution for me. Plus language restrictions – my husband speaks the language of this country but not at an advance level and most of the officials of the government bodies (we met) do not speak English.

So as a result we are completely exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed with the challenges we have to face almost every day. We simply would like to exercise our basic right to family life as we do not want to be separated and moreover we expect our first child and it would be in the best interests of the child to be born and grow in a full family and get care from both parents.

Why the home office does not take into account a human factor apart from the ££ value of your application? We are extremely unhappy with this inhumane approach to the family and marriage immigration law especially in view of the proposed changes as the changes could mean further struggles or even impossibility to exercise a family life there (especially it is frustrating to learn about the new changes after the year of endless challenges!)

 

Names have been changed to protect anonymity