Sheehan’s story

I am a 22 year old British citizen who is pregnant with my first child. A year ago I went to Cambodia temporarily where I met the father of my child, fell madly in love and ended up deciding to stay and live there to be with him. We are now expecting the birth of our first child and although we are both extremely happy about becoming parents the new immigration laws have gave me so much stress during the pregnancy (so much I have even had to consider if I can keep the baby or not.) Cambodia is a country where you can only make a tiny amount of money to live and the living standards are nothing compared to what I have grown up with in the UK. I now feel however unless the immigration laws are changed I have no chance of ever living in the UK again unless I am willing to break up my family and leave my partner to stay in Cambodia. I am increasingly worried about my lack of options and have come to realise if we cannot provide for our child sufficiently on a Cambodian wage (which is around £40 a month) I will have to consider leaving my family to come to the UK alone to earn money or rely on my British family for help. If it were possible for us to live in the UK neither my partner or I would rely on government hand-outs but as I have no degree or career it would be impossible to meet the £22,000 a year requirement to sponsor both my partner and child.  I am so happy to be starting my family but feel as though It is causing my exile from the UK.

Connie and Paul’s story

I’m an American who came to the UK in 2009 to broaden my horizons through a graduate art program. I earned a partial scholarship for the program, quit my soul-sucking job, and moved half-way around the world for a year. Despite being completely out of my comfort zone, transitioning into the British lifestyle clicked almost instantly, some of my fellow students ended up being close friends I’ll have for life. And despite my great reluctance, I fell in love for the first time, with a Brit. Paul was a part-time student in the same masters program; we bonded over films, American fast-food and British comedy. He was just the icing on the cake to this awesome experience I was having.

Fast-forward to the end of the program, I, along with a few cohort members, failed the last phase of the program. We weren’t given any warning or proper explanation as to why our projects weren’t “up to standard.” I fought long and hard with the administration, even opting to have the decision appealed. It was denied, simply because I hadn’t submitted a form, which was something the administration failed to tell me when I went to them for help about the procedure. I wasn’t getting my degree and more importantly, without the degree I couldn’t apply for a visa and would have to return home.

Saying goodbye to all my friends and Paul was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Upon returning home, I had troubles picking myself up again and fell into a deep depression. The arbitrary and corrupt nature of the university left me feeling pretty hopeless and then when July rolled around, the new immigration rules felt like being kicked while I was already down. Combined with the recession, both here and in the UK, coming by work was (and still is) an uphill battle. So basically, we’re stuck indefinitely until someone can find work, and in Paul’s case work that pays above the pointless bar the Coalition has set.

The constant misinformation and attacks upon immigration are entirely counter to the history and strengths of both the US and the UK. Immigration has been a fundamental building block of the countries, both socially and economically, and to see politicians and media commentators refute this in the face of the facts they are presented with is disgusting and disheartening. For us, and for so many others, these actions keep us locked apart for petty and unsubstantial reasons.

A parent’s story

Are British laws made for people with money?


Government law states that the new minimum wage is £6.31

Government law states that a working week should not be more than 48 hours.

United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) requirements for a British subject to bring their spouse into the UK are that they must be earning £18,600 a year.

Now £6.31 multiplied by 48 equals £302.88

£302.88 multiplied by 52 weeks equals £15,749.76


Therefore if someone was to earn the Government minimum wage even if they were able to work 48 hours per week for 52 weeks, they would still not be able to reach the UKBA requirements. (Note 52 weeks means no sick leave for casual workers no public holidays and no leave unless it’s paid leave)


It is the UKBA that allows students to enter the UK and although they cannot stop them from falling in love, young people seem to do this.


Such is the case for my son and his partner who are married.


A British student who leaves University in today’s economic climate finds it hard to get work so they end up being waiters or packers and therefore end up on the minimum wage and more often than not do not get to work 48 hours a week. If they are lucky they get 30 to 35 hours. Their foreign partner is not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week. So if the British subject is lucky enough to get 30 hours and the foreign partner gets 20 hours giving a total of 50 hours between them, this is still not enough. ((50×6.31) x52=£16,406)


The British student’s parents are prepared to house the couple and feed them but this is not taken into account by the UKBA.

In the case of these two students the foreign student’s parents are residing in the UK with right to remain but their support is not taken into account as well.


I would suggest that the UKBA stop all foreigners from coming into the UK as that is what they seem to want.



A very unhappy parent.

Upcoming debate

‘A Dividing Issue: The Immigration Debate in Context’ (1.00pm, Saturday 2 November 2013, Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge)

Link to tickets (free):

This panel discussion for the 2013 Festival of Ideas brings together experts from a wide range of backgrounds and positions, who will cut through the slogans and politicking to reveal a more objective picture of immigration policy in 2013. David Goodhart (Director, Demos), Habib Rahman (Chief Executive, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants), Michael Kitson (University of Cambridge), and Sarah Fine (King’s College London) will consider the immigration debate from a diverse variety of angles. Panel discussion and Q&A chaired by Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe (University of Cambridge).

More details and tickets can be found here:

Facebook event page:

For any further information on the event, please contact Ed Anderson (

A story from Syria

I am a British citizen, I was born in the UK in 1977. My family left the UK when I was eighteen months old, I grew up in Syria and qualified in cardiology. Because of the conflict I decided to come to my second home in GB, only to discover that it is not allowed for me to bring my Syrian wife, who is the mother of our three Children, two of whom are British. We got married in 2005 and I came to the UK in June 2013. After eight years of marriage now I am here in the UK, and my three British children and their Mum are in Syria.

My wife is Syrian, she  cannot apply for the visa because of the financial requirements. I am a cardiologist, qualified in Syria. I have to pass the IELTs English test and PLAB medical test to register in the general medical council and get a job later on.

I have three children:
Amin 7 years old, British Citizen
Nawal 6 years old, British Citizen
Naya 10 months old, who I could not register as British citizen because I am not in Syria.

The conflict in Syria destroyed my life and the UK government has broken my family. I feel that in any time I could lose my family. When I came here I did not know about the financial requirement, and if I knew at that time I would not have come.
I am under stress and I think daily about leaving the UK and looking for a job in the gulf area. I am not able to go back to Syria because the regime would probably arrest me. They consider any Syrian who left Syria to be with the opposition and they leave the names of travellers at the border.

How many families are in the UK depending on  benefits in their life? I feel that if I was an asylum seeker or an EU citizen in the UK, it would be better than being a UK citizen.

Lucie’s story

I am a British woman, and have been living in Thailand for about 17
years. 14 years ago, I met my husband, Atsadang, who is Thai. A few
years later we married, and we have 2 children, a son aged 9 and a
daughter aged almost 6.

I have worked for the last 10 years as a primary school ESL teacher.
But, due to new rules saying that all foreign teachers must have a
degree in order to get a work permit, as of next year I won’t any
longer be able to work at the only job that foreigners are allowed to
do here.

Added to this is the fact that I don’t have a lot of faith in the Thai
education system, and don’t want my children to go through it. And
then there’s the simple fact that I have had enough of living here. I
want to go home.

I am earning the equivalent of 8,500 pounds a year, and we live very
well on that, as the cost of living in Thailand is low. I can even
save some for our airfares back to the UK. Where I live, jobs simply
don’t exist that pay 18,600 – or even 13,000. And then there’s the
fact that I would also have to have a job offer in the UK before
arriving. Jobs like that aren’t doled out over Skype, you know.

So I am faced with the strong possibility of having to take my
children back to the UK, and leave my husband here on his own, until
such time as I can get a well-paid job and present 6 months of
payslips. How do you think that makes my children feel? And my
husband, who will be alone for months (or years) on end.

I am in a similar position to many other people – my parents own a
large enough house, and are happy to let us stay for as long as we
need to. I also am quite happy to forego any rights to unemployment
benefits when I arrive. I would rather live with my parents, and
survive on 2 low wages, than tear apart my very close family and claim
benefits while chasing after a well-paid job.

PLEASE, keep the rules that check if it’s a genuine relationship, but
remove the financial requirement. People in many parts of the world
simply cannot make that kind of money.


A wife’s story

I am a wife. I love my husband. I am American. He is British. The UK government thinks my husband needs to earn £18,600 so I don’t sponge off the welfare state, while the average UK worker earns about £13,000. They do not care how much I earn. They do not care that I have health insurance and doctors here in the US. They do not care that I own my own business and work as a freelancer, so my presence in the UK takes zero jobs away from UK citizens, it only allows me to spend money on their economy and contribute to their society through my taxes and just generally being a good person. They do not care that I have a Masters degree from one of the finest universities in the UK. They do not care that I have friends and a life and a home in the UK. They do not care about me. They do not care that I applied honestly and truthfully and with good intent. They care about the £660 pounds we don’t have to make that threshold. My family’s happiness is for sale and it costs £660. I did not factor into this decision at all, nor did my character, or my relationship with my husband. A number did. And that number has told the UKBA that I am undesirable. I am smart, I am kind, I am educated, I love, I work, I adore my husband and miss him and our home. But that doesn’t matter now. Because I am an undesirable. And I am devastated. The right to have a family life has been denied me. I am unworthy even of that. Because of a number. I am not a number. I am a wife who loves her husband. And I am angry.