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.



3 Comments on “Ali’s story”

  1. Roxxroxx says:

    My situation is similar to yours. Your family is obviously wealthier than mine – we don’t have a spare house, but under the old rules, our family support would have been enough, as we were planning to start off at their place. I don’t think there’s any way that we could do this without a separation, or me selling my property and hoping my parents can supply the rest of the money we need. It is in the small print that family can give money as long as it has been held for 6 months. I don’t want to ask them to do this though! I can document my earnings here as being over the necessary amount, but getting a job offer AND organising a place to live that isn’t my parents’ place can’t be done before we (my kids and I) have to leave here because of my work contract expiring (we are gay so cannot stay here independent of my contract). AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL.

  2. darkeangyle says:

    Your situation is close to mine, minus the degrees and my husband is the UKC. The savings amount is a total joke and this is something that really needs to be re-addressed and soon.

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