"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Sunday 20 January 2013



“I am keen for my small family to be near my parents, to gain recognition of our family as a legal unit and be around to look after my parents as they get older.”

Juliet, a British citizen and a qualified teacher, lives in Thailand. She is hoping to sponsor her civil partner, a qualified chef, to return to live in the UK with her and their twins.

The couple, who met in 2009, planned to live with Juliet’s parents in West Sussex, but are unlikely to be able to secure work in the area prior to arriving in the UK.

Juliet’s family’s local MP is Peter Bottomley (Conservative).

“We had the most amazing year – finally, success in our attempt to become pregnant and our wedding in Hanoi, Vietnam. We had no idea about the new visa rules because we’d been tied up starting our new life together and supporting Great Britain in the Olympics.
“We never planned to raise this family in Bangkok – we were conscious that we could not be a legal and protected family here. After a year of trying to get pregnant, once it actually happened I felt very strongly that I wanted the twins to bond closely with my own parents. We discovered the impact of the new rules and felt like we’d been hit in the face with a sledgehammer. Absolutely devastating.”

Juliet feels people – including politicians – simply don’t understand the implications of these new rules.

She realises she is one of the lucky BritCits, in the sense that she is currently living with her spouse and employed abroad; but, despite her earning over the £18,600 threshold, it is unlikely they will be able to move to the UK as planned.

This is especially problematic for them because, as a same-sex couple, they cannot stay together indefinitely in Thailand where their civil partnership is not recognised; with kids in the
picture this is especially important – UK law allows for Juliet’s partner to register legally as the second parent of their children at birth, but not to live where these laws apply!

For ex-pats, returning from abroad is a period of great adjustment and the arrangements can be time-consuming. Juliet was aware that, under the previous rules, she could return to the UK and allow herself some time to adjust to family life. Juliet and her partner would have been able to look for work with her parents offering support in the form of childcare and living costs. They would have been able to demonstrate no need to access public funds as the couple have modest savings of their own and a property in the UK.

Juliet’s parents were more than happy to provide third party support if required and were delighted that Juliet wanted to raise her children close by. They will also need Juliet close by to look after them, as they get older.

All these plans were thrown out the window, however, with the changes on 9th July 2012.

The new rules require a job offer to be signed and sealed in the UK before allowing a successful spouse visa application. As a primary school teacher with 9 years’ experience, in theory this poses no problem and just a slight change in the couple’s approach. But getting a job offer as a teacher from abroad is not easy – most schools will require lesson observations as part of the interview and give preference to those applying from within the UK.

If Juliet wants to move to the UK with her family, her options are now:
a) Find a teaching job in advance, not easy;
b) Move with their children and look for a teaching job, facing at least six months apart from her partner during the twins’ formative years;
c) Stump up £62,500 in cash and demonstrate that she would not need access to it over the next few years.

In the case of (a) or (b) this would mean a probable move to London, without support from her family; (b) would mean being a single parent trying to meet the £18,600 income criterion while looking after two children.

London makes proving secure accommodation problematic. Are the couple expected to take out a rental contract on a London property they have never seen while they await the visa result, throwing money down the drain? Would they be penalised for applying while using the homes of friends with a spare room, or a couch for Juliet to sleep on, while she is job hunting? The 1985 Overcrowding Act states that living rooms DO count as bedrooms, but the rules’ qualification of ‘for their exclusive use’ may rule this out. Another example of the measures put in place for no reason other than to present an obstacle and prevent decent hardworking Brits from exercising their right to live in their own country.

In London, Juliet would also lose the family support she moved home for and her parents would lose the support they will increasingly need from her. Additionally, she would have to spend half her salary on expenses such as childcare. In this case, she would qualify for working tax credits – benefits she would not be in need of if she were just allowed to be here with her partner!!

How is breaking this family apart better for the British economy?

As Juliet’s brother is in the same position – working in Tanzania, with a Tanzanian partner – the future is quite grim for Juliet’ parents, both British, both getting old, and both alone in the UK. For now, they can handle the long-haul flights to Asia and Africa, but this will become an increasing burden. They are being denied the right to see their grandchildren and being denied to have, in their old age, their own children around them. Juliet’s parents were tax-paying public sector workers throughout the whole of their working lives, until retirement. Why should they too be denied such basic rights by our politicians, who are being paid to look out for British people's interests?

Juliet has been employed without a break since she qualified as a teacher in 2004. She is a graduate with not one but two postgraduate qualifications, and has worked in UK state schools for five years. Like many others, she is now being prevented from returning to her home just because she fell in love with a foreigner. Juliet’s partner is also a graduate and has also been gainfully employed or managing her own business for ten years without a break.

Juliet says that if the rule changes had come with fair warning, discussion and publicity, she could have planned her life around them. She never imagined when she left on a two-year work contract in 2009 that she would be prevented from returning to her own country.

The very core of fairness for all applications has been removed: assessment on a case-by-case basis of couples’ demonstration that they won’t need state help. Whatever the government says, people’s whole circumstances demand proper consideration. By their very definition, the new ‘Fixed Requirements’ are
utterly unfair.

Juliet suspects removing the use of discretion and assessment of individual cases results in a reduction in processing times, thus giving the impression of improved efficiency. Better for Britain? Better for MPs' propaganda!

Tearing apart families causes untold suffering at the most personal level, and the welfare of innocent children should be properly prioritised. For children, the security and love of their family is of vital importance and destroying or interrupting them can cause irreparable damage. The Conservatives said this themselves in their pro-family pre-election spiel … but is it a qualified importance that can be disregarded on the most arbitrary technicality? What hypocrisy! What damage they will do!

This isn’t a couple coming to the UK to sponge off benefits. This is a couple coming to the UK to give their kids – British kids – a better life, and to provide support and care for ageing British parents.

They are not asking for anything more than British citizens have a basic right to already.

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