Sophie’s story

I’ve been wondering for so long if there was a way I could make contact with other people in my situation and to hear other stories. I am so glad to have come across this blog.
I am 23 years old and met my husband, a South African Citizen, almost 2 and a half years ago. He lives and works in Spain, and has done for most of his working life, and we met whilst I was out there in 2010. I returned to the UK but stayed in touch with him during my last year at University, chatting through Skype and Facebook. The following Summer we were reunited again as I graduated and moved out to Spain to live with him and work. Our relationship grew from strength to strength. He applied for a Visitors Visa so that he could come to the UK with me over Christmas and New Year and visit England for the first time. It was such an incredible experience to have him here with my family and friends, and I knew that we could be so happy living together in the UK.
At the beginning of this year we travelled to South Africa together. I had been given a 6-month voluntary placement at a school close to his family home in Cape Town. This was an amazing opportunity to visit his home, meet his family and spend time with them. We decided to get married and my parents flew out to Cape Town to be with us on our special day. It was the most incredible day of my life. From there, we returned to Spain to work another Summer with a view to settling down together in the UK by the end of the year. We had spent so much time studying the UKBA website page so that we were aware of the rules, that we didn’t check it again over the Summer. Of course, this is when all the laws changed, and having been out of the country for the whole year meant that we had no idea! I knew that I had to return to the UK to find a permanent job so we could begin the visa application, so I returned in September and began working as a Learning Support Assistant. It’s a job that doesn’t pay well at all, but a job that I loved.
Shortly after returning, I decided to check the UKBA website, just to see if there had been any updates. What I saw shocked and appalled me. Sitting in my room, reading through the new rules…I felt sick. I called my husband immediately but I just didn’t know how to break this news to him. It was so hard to process all this new information, but what was clear was that our dreams of being together, permanently, in the UK before Christmas were shattered. I knew that I had no choice but to start looking for another job. I began searching but had no idea how much chance I stood of finding something that fulfilled the financial requirement. I consider myself lucky that I am a Graduate and I live in the South East of England, and so after one month of searching, I was finally offered a job. Handing in my notice at my school and explaining why was embarrassing and upsetting, but thankfully everybody has been so nice and understanding. I am now in my final two weeks and set to begin my new job soon. Now, we must wait 6 months before we can apply for the Settlement Visa.
In an attempt to find a way to be together in the meantime, my husband applied for a Family Visit Visa which was refused on the grounds that he was not a ‘Genuine’ visitor and was at risk of overstaying and not returning to Spain. What I cannot understand is why on Earth would we break the law, knowing the consequences, when we are a young couple starting out our life together? and why it is not ‘genuine’ that a married couple might want to spend some time together!!! It just makes no sense. I was even more shocked to hear that the appeal process takes 6-12 months!!! So what’s the point? Now we are left with no choice but to be separated, probably for about a year (taking into account the time it can take to process the visa once we have applied). I will have to fly out to Spain as often as I can, wasting money that we could be saving towards a house and the extortionate cost of the visa itself!
I find the whole thing absolutely unbelievable and I realise that there are people out there who are affected by this in worse ways than us. My husband and I do consider ourselves lucky, with me managing to get a job and him living not too far way in Spain, but still…no married couple should have to go through this and live in separate countries, just so our Government can try and prove that it is tackling immigration. It is quite frankly disgusting.
Am I supposed to feel ashamed for marrying a non-EU citizen? Is this a kind of punishment for daring to marry outside the European Union?! It certainly feels like it.
My heart goes out to all those who have posted their story on this page and anyone who is facing this incredibly difficult situation. All I know is that our love will get us through anything and I would never, ever change my husband for the world.

5 Comments on “Sophie’s story”

  1. John says:

    HI Sophie
    I really sympathise with you and the position the new rules have put you in. I too know the heartache of separation. That said have you thought of going to work in Spain for a short time (say 6 months) under EU immigration rules you sould then be able to return to the UK and bring your partner with you.
    I do not want to see you having to leave this country and only suggest this as a practical solution.

  2. Ella Elle says:

    Sophie, as the above poster said, go and live with your partner and work in Spain for at least 12 weeks (if it’s on a fixed contract) or 6 months if it’s not a fixed contract. You must work a minimum of 10 hours a week in Spain. After that you have automatic rights to bring your partner back over to the UK by exercising your EU treaty rights and thereby bypassing heartless UK immigration requirements. I know it sounds crazy to have to temporarily relocate to another EU country (not UK) in order to bring your partner back to the UK, but under EU rules (not UK rules) you (even as a UK citizen) have the right to bring your non-EU partner to the UK if you have “exercised your treaty rights” in the EU (not UK) for 6months (or at least 12 weeks on a fixed contract). Look up “Surinder Singh” for more details.

  3. Ella Elle says:

    To add to my comments, I’ve just realised that you spent a whole summer this year living and working in Spain with your husband. In that case I believe you might have a case for possibly exercising your EU treaty rights in the UK now! Don’t bother applying for your husband to come here under UK rules – use EU rules now to file an application to the UK Border Agency for an “EEA Family Permit” in order to bring your husband over to the UK now, and once he is here apply for a EEA2 residence card. Since you have lived and worked in Spain you can exercise your EU treaty rights in the UK under Surinder Singh rules. As I said, look it up and you’ll see what I mean. Some of the documents that you’ll need to provide for an EEA Family Permit application are proof of your employment in Spain this summer (such as work contract, payslips, employer’s letter, bank statement of wages, etc) and proof that you and your husband lived together at the same address in Spain (such as tenancy agreement, utility bills, bank statements, etc). Good luck.

    • bsd says:

      hi u seem to know what ur saying id never heard or this eu treaty b4. my and my hubby have had a nitemare of a time with ukba that we have been stuck in algeria for 4 years in dec. i can have an irish passport an a british but were liveing in algeria at the moment not an eu country do u have any advice

      • Hi there, I’d be careful on this route if you have dual citizenship. Recent regulation changes can mean you would have to apply under the standard spousal visa route if you do. Surinder Singh may only apply where an exclusively British citizen has been exercising treaty rights in another EEA country. I’d seriously recommend speaking to an immigration consultancy , or if you still think you would be eligible for the EEA Family Permit contacting the AIRE Centre here for free advice on your European free movement rights:

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