R’s story

I feel like the majority of people don’t understand the implications of these new rules. I am currently abroad and with my partner, but despite my profession earning over the 18600 threshold, it’s unlikely we will be able to move to the UK as we had planned. This is a problem as we are a same-sex couple, and staying here where our Civil Partnership is not recognised is not a suitable long-term solution. We planned to have a family together and after lengthy fertility treatment, I am now pregnant with twins. We decided that we wanted to raise them in the UK so that they would be close to my parents.Getting a job offer as a UK school teacher from abroad is not easy – most schools will require a lesson observation and will discriminate due to my time here in the Independent sector. We had planned to have our children and then move to my parents’ home so that my (very ambitious and talented) partner could look for work. This work probably would not be over 18600 as she is a chef and my parents do not live in London. I would spend a bit of time being a full-time mum whilst searching for a new job and perhaps volunteering part time in state schools for exposure and current UK work experience.

Now I need to try to get a job in March (April at the latest) before most are released after the May half term break. If I don’t then we will need to stump up the (18600GBP x2.5) + 16000GBP = 62500GBP in savings. If my property sells, we might make some of it, but not all. And if it doesn’t…. I take our 18-month old twins away and leave their other parent alone in Bangkok? I don’t see another option – it would be better for me to leave, find work and appeal than to stay here without a job or a Visa – that would mess up appeals / further applications. However, it would mean living as a single parent trying to meet the 18600 whilst spending half my salary on rent and half on childcare. In that case, I would definitely be seeking Working tax credits and claiming government support I would otherwise not be in need of! My parents should not be denied the right to see their grandchildren. All of this has come as a serious blow to our excitement at the family’s imminent arrivals at what should have been a joyous time.

In the event that I do get a job, the next problem is housing. We have several options of friends / family who might be able to accommodate us temporarily while we organise a rented place, but that may well stand against us as insecure/ non-permanent. So must we arrange and pay for a (London) rental contract in March /April which we must continue to pay for for its duration even in the event of an unsuccessful Visa application?

It seems so unfair – both of us have been employed without break in the last 10 years and are graduates (and I have two postgraduate qualifications). I worked as a teacher in state schools for 5 years, left for a two year break to broaden my own horizons and fell in love. I’m still here, but had I realised the door to my own country would be closed to me when I wanted to come back, would I have left? Of course not – it changes everything!

Ironically, my (also highly qualified) brother who works in Tanzania is in the same situation -he has a Tanzanian girlfriend. My poor parents.

Katie’s story

I am a British citizen who moved to Cape Town, South Africa in February 2010 to be with my partner; a South African citizen. He has visited England on three separate occasions but has never lived in the UK. We got married in October 2010 after a 3 year relationship.

My Father passed away in April 2012. My husband and I now feel it is the right time to move back permanently to the UK to be with my Mother, who is living alone in Acle, Norfolk and needs the support of her family.

Through our own in-depth research and guidance from immigration consultants, we were shocked and saddened by the new laws that were passed on the 9th July 2012. We meet all of the criteria for a Settlement Visa; however we believe the financial requirements to be totally absurd and incredibly harsh. I have already got an offer of employment in the UK and our intention is to live with my Mother for the interim, consequently there is no need to rely on any public funding.

I have been working in Cape Town as an Au-pair for the past 2 and a half years, earning a reasonable salary. However, taking the exchange rate into account and the fact that salaries are considerably lower in South Africa then it has not been possible for me to meet the £18,600 gross annual salary. I am aware of the need for savings to take care of the shortfall in my salary but these amounts of money appear totally absurd! I have been told by an immigration consultant that I, as my husband’s British sponsor must take full financial responsibility, a situation which seems totally hopeless at this moment in time. I have also been advised to return to the UK and work for 6 or more months in order to earn the required salary while my husband remains in South Africa. I believe these new regulations to be incredibly unfair. What married couple wants to spend 6 to 12 months living in separate countries? I do not understand the logic in these new changes!

I realise the changes came to pass on the 9th July and it makes me so angry that overnight people are expected to have thousands and thousands of pounds in savings if they simply do not meet the annual gross salary. These requirements are quite frankly ridiculous and will no doubt cause partners and families to be torn apart if they are forced to live separately! We do not have the funds to seek legal advice & see no point applying for the settlement visa at present as we are not prepared to lose so much money in the appliction process. The plan is to apply for a Visitor Visa at the moment which is not ideal but we want to be together, I just hope this one will be approved!

Emma’s story

Dear FIA,
Finally I have found a blog where I can voice my story!
I met my husband in Indonesia in 2001 whilst on holiday. I returned in 2002 and we travelled around Indonesia together for 2 months after which I returned to the UK as I was working in London. We kept in touch via post and email over the next 7 months, and I went back again in 2002 and we got married in Jakarta. We applied for his visa to the UK and he got it within 4 days and he moved to London with me. We had our daughter and our son in the UK, my husband worked and I worked and we never claimed anything from the state.
My husband became home sick and we decided to give living in Indonesia a try. We moved to Indonesia in 2007 and lived with his parents initially, until we set up our own little business and were able to rent our own home. Life proved to be difficult over there as the business didn’t sustain our family and we faced poverty. We decided to move back to the UK where I thought I could get a job within 3 months of returning and our children could start school. But we were in for a real shock when immigration refused my husbands returning residence visa as he had stayed out of the UK for 2 months over the 2 year period you are allowed to return as a resident. We were advised by the British Embassy in Jakarta to apply for a returning residents visa as it was only 2 months over and it would be ok. But it was not, and we wasted money we didn’t have on this visa. We were then advised to apply for a new spouse visa, which was £800, and this was refused on the grounds of me the sponsor not having a job to come back to, and the unlikelyhood of me finding a job in the near future due to the current economic climate.
The immigration officer advised us in the refusal letter that I return to the UK and make provisions for my husband to return, ie, get a job, a house adequate for family life in the UK. I returned to the UK with our 2 children, found rented accommodation, settled the kids into school and started job hunting. As my son was only 2 when we returned he was only in pre-school part time, and so due to childcare commitments, I couldn’t secure full time work, and I couldn’t afford child care costs even if I did find a full time position. I had several interviews for graphic design jobs, as I am a professional graphic designer with 15 years + work history.
Now, I have been on Income Support, and now going onto Job Seekers Allowance in October, still searching for work, and even set myself up to freelance as a designer from home to create an income. I wrote to my local MP explaining the situation and that it was so ironic, because if my husband was allowed to be in this country, our child care problems would cease to exist, and we could both have the shared time to work and care for our family without having to claim any benefit from the state. His reply was unhelpful, expressing his sympathy for our situation, and stated that even another MP had his wife’s visa refused entry to the UK, and that it was difficult for everyone! I then wrote to the Prime Minister, and I got a standard letter expressing his sympathy, and had enclosed the rules of immigration! Like I didn’t already know that! I was on the front page of my local newspaper LEP, as I had painted a mural at my son’s school, and the teacher had contacted the paper about that to promote my artist work in the hope of future commissions, and when I was interviewed the paper was more interested in my immigration story, and so combined the two and made front page news on a Saturday! I had people stopping me in the street asking me how the situation was progressing and couldn’t believe my story and how, still 3 years later, we have not seen my husband.
My husband came into some money in April 2012 and applied again for a visa (3rd time), only for it to be refused on the grounds he hadn’t done his English test. We knew he had to do this test, but the embassy in Jakarta told him he would do it in the UK. We lost another £820. I contacted a lawyer and had had a free consultation chat, and she immediately said we could not appeal as it is a requirement of the visa to do the English test. I told her my husband was wrongly advised by the British Embassy in Jakarta, but she told me they do not see it like that, they expect you to find out for yourself what you are supposed to do. In my eyes, asking the British Embassy what to do regarding a visa IS seeking advise for yourself, but they are allowed to misadvise and get away with it, and steal your money in the process.
Now my husband has done his English test, and we are still waiting for the results, he took it 20 July, it’s now 26 September! Apparently it has gone to America to be marked and he will hear by post, but they can’t say when. By this time money is running low, and now they have changed the rules again, so I have to be earning 18600 before he can join us here in the UK. Job prospects are bleak, I don’t see how we will ever overcome this. It may mean we return to Indonesia, where we will have to live with his family, face poverty, and I will have to home school. The government has to change these laws for foreign spouses, it’s criminal and against our human rights, mine, my husbands and my childrens, to live together as a family!

Kirsty’s story

My name is Kirsty, 22 years old and a British citizen, 11 years ago my auntie married a Tunisian citizen and I attended their wedding, at the wedding I met my auntie’s nephew, Karim. I returned to Tunisia in June 2010 and was re-introduced to Karim, who is now 24. This time we kept in touch and our relationship blossomed, but not without the uncertainty of how we could remain in a relationship of such distance and knowing it would be an expensive struggle to get him here. We accepted we loved each over and could not live without each over. We married in July 2012 with hopes to apply for a spouse visa as soon as we could, unaware that just as we were marrying, new laws were being put in place requiring that I earn at least 18600 per annum minimum and when we found this out we were truly devastated.

Upon meeting with a lawyer recently he basically told me I have no chance I would be refused again and again until it was taken to the high court. He advised me I could fight the law but if I lost the cost would be astronomical. Now I am truly stuck and the only option is to continue as we are; with me visiting him and  not allowing me a chance to save money for our future. This is not how I expected my married life to be; a fight to be with my husband… This breaches my human rights to family life and from what I can see this contradicts the law, this law discriminates us who are hard working tax payers on an average salary which means by this law, only the rich can bring home their partners?!

Transnational Families Documentary

Hector Ulloque, documentary filmmaker from Colombia, based in France, is looking for participants for a documentary about transnational families.

This project is produced by the Medio contención producciones (www.mediodecontencion.com), a Colombian production company in which directors and researchers share their professional and academic experiences.
We are looking for families that would like to participate in our documentary project. Families scattered in geography, living in different countries due to the migration of one or more of its members. Families separated by thousands of kilometers, but that succeed in having a constant communication and sharing their family rituals through several media, especially by Internet.
We had the opportunity to see your blog. We want to make contact with women and men belonging to transnational families in different parts of the world and eventually to invite them to participate in the project.

If you would like to know more about our project don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

Hector Ulloque

Melanie’s story

My name is Melanie Ebrahim, I’m a 22 year old British woman married to an Egyptian Man called Mahmoud who is 26. Mahmoud and I have been married for 2 years, we lived together in Egypt initially for 1 year, during this time I had become very sick and suffered with depression. The lifestyle here that we have in Egypt is very hard, especially with me being a foreigner with blue eyes and white skin. I was harassed every time I would leave the house, I had stones thrown at me and men trying to touch me. It became so bad that it was easier for me to stay indoors, therefore isolating myself and feeling alone. I could not drink from the water here and even bottled water made me sick. I began to not eat in fear of being unwell and spent many nights in the hospital having tests. Throughout all this time my husband stuck by my side and tried to help me the best way he could. We had not really thought about living in the Uk before but after all that I had experienced here and not being able to take it any longer we discussed about trying to apply for a spouse visa. In October 2011 I travelled back home to Birmingham to begin the spouse visa process. I knew I would have to find a job and work hard for 6 months so that I could bring my husband over with me. I found a job within 2 weeks of being home as a Shift Leader in a well known company and began work in November. I worked extremely hard up to 60 hours a week so that I could save money. I had a home for myself and my husband to stay in and support from all my family. The 7 months we spent apart were the worst days of my life, I missed him so much but i knew what I was doing was right. I had no plans to cheat the system and I worked hard to bring him over the right way. My husband passed his english test with flying colours and worked in Egypt to also try to save money so we had the best chance of being successful with our application. In June 2012 I travelled back over to Egypt to start the application, at this time the new rules were only speculation and gossip and nobody was really sure of when it would happen. We had some trouble collecting my husband’s army release paper so that he was able to travel which delayed us in the process of applying. We also was unaware that all documents had to be handed in before the 9th of July so therefore missed the closing date to apply under the old rules. This has completely ruined our lives, i now have no choice but to live in Egypt as I do not and could not earn at this present time £18,600.
I have been in Egypt now since the new rules and had to leave my job and my family in the UK to be with my husband. My health is suffering again and I am once again stuck unable to go out in fear of being harassed. I do not speak the language here so even a simple task of bringing water from the local shop is impossible for me so I am completely dependant on my husband. I beg him everyday not to go out to work in fear of being left alone. I am surrounded by so many people in a big city but have never felt more alone. We really do not have any choice but to continue our life here, my husband will never get to meet my family in person and my future children will be living a life of poverty because there mother couldn’t satisfy the UK immigration rules of earning £18,600 and I really have no idea where I go from here.

Ali’s story

My name is Ali. I am 28 and a dual British/U.S. citizen. My husband is 30 and is a U.S. citizen. Our son is 2 years old and has dual citizenship. I met my husband of 6 years in 2002 during my first term at university in the UK. I was 18, he was 20 – over on a study abroad year from America. We have been together ever since. Between 2003 and 2006 we visited back and forth, and my husband lived and worked in the UK for 6 months in my second year at university – he was on a BUNAC visa and he worked and paid taxes, we had a little flat together, it was nice. When the 6 months were up he moved back to the US, I completed my degree and then I applied for the U.S. fiancee visa (which entailed a medical screening in London and an interview at the U.S. Embassy, and a 6 month+ wait period) and moved to the U.S. to marry him in 2006.

I started graduate school in the US in 2007 – I was working towards a PhD, but after our son was born in 2010 we decided it would be better if I left with a master’s degree and completed the PhD at a later date once we had moved back to the UK. I had just got my U.S citizenship which meant we could return to the U.S, if we wanted to, but we wanted my son to grow up around my family. We decided this in February 2012. I consulted with an immigration lawyer who said that we just needed to show that we could support ourselves. She said this would be easy enough. My parents have a rental house they are going to let us live in rent-free. I have a master’s degree. My husband has worked for the same company for the last 5 years making $45,000 a year.

Then in July the rules changed. I found this out when I was over visiting family in July. I was so upset and angry at how unfair the new rules are, and how ridiculous. The savings portion is a joke. We own our own house over here in the U.S. and my husband has a 401K pension plan. We are going to rent our house out as the housing market is still not good enough to sell. I’m not sure why the government expects young couples like us to have bought a house AND have saved up $100,000 (the equivalent amount in US$ you need to move to the UK as a family without the British citizen finding a job and working at it for 6 months first – the whole 6 month waiting period makes no sense either, it just keeps families apart for longer!)

Now it doesn’t matter that we have a house to live in and a big supportive family. It doesn’t matter that we both have degrees, own our own home, and have never been on welfare or benefits. I have been staying home with my son and working part-time since I left graduate school while my husband supports us. To teach at the university-level I need to complete the PhD. To teach at the high-school/secondary school level I need to complete more training (a PGCE in the UK). There is no point doing teacher-training here if we want to move, but I don’t want to be apart from my husband while I do the PGCE in the UK. So, I have a master’s degree in U.S. History and no recent full-time employment experience, and I can’t train to be a teacher in the UK and keep my family together. I’m not sure what sort of job to go for, I just need one making the right amount of money. I’m not too hopeful about my chances of finding the right sort of job with the economy being the way it is, but we have no choice but to try as it is the only way under the new rules. My husband, meanwhile, has worked for the last five years in the same retail management job.

To move to the UK as a family I need to have a job here in the US earning $30,000 (the equivalent of the 18,600 GBP requirement) for 6 months AND a job offer lined up in the UK before we can apply for my husband’s visa. The alternative (which we are taking because the former is so ludicrous) is for my and my son to move to the UK without my husband while I look for a job earning the arbitrary amount of 18,600 GBP and then work at said job for 6 months before my husband can apply for his visa to join us. He may be able to visit us for a while as a tourist, but he will have to leave when his tourist visa runs out. If I haven’t found a job by then we will have to move back to the US as I don’t want to live apart from my husband. When we got married we said “at least we wont have to be apart again” because we had already gone through years of finishing college in our respective countries and waiting for my visa to move to the US.

We never thought it would be that difficult to move back to the UK, though I had a inkling the Conservative government might make it more difficult, and so they have. The new rules mean that my 2 year old son will have to be apart from his dad for at least a few months even in the best-case scenario that I quickly find a job. They also mean that I can’t immediately return to graduate study in the UK (had I known this in advance I may never have left the program I was in in the US). The situation must be so much more daunting for other families where, say, the British citizen wife chose to be a stay-at-home mum, or where neither partner has a degree, but it is daunting enough for us.

My family in the UK consists of my mum, stepdad, dad, four younger brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, not to mention friends, who all miss us and want us to move back. We’re going to try our best to make it work, but if I can’t find that job I guess we’ll be exiled to America, even though with the free rent and my family’s help I could be working at minimum wage, or not working, and we wouldn’t need benefits. Also, my husband would be much more likely to find a job than I am because he has been the breadwinner for the past 6 years while I was in graduate school. Under the old rules we could have moved over together and we could have both looked for work. Now, the burden is all on me, and I think the whole thing is ridiculous and discriminatory against people who happened to fall in love with someone from another country. Why even have such things as study abroad programs between UK and U.S. universities if the government is going to make it so difficult to be together if you fall in love with an American?

I also agree with some of the other testimonials that this is harder for women. Especially for women with young children. I am not sure how this law is even legal as it clearly discriminates against women who generally earn lower pay and often take time out of the workforce to look after their children.