"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.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Gerard and Vilai

“UKBA is happy to take the visa application fees, and find spurious reasons to reject visa applications, in order to take yet more fees....”

Gerard is a British citizen and 59 years old. He is a seventh child and grew up in a loving family.

Gerard’s wife, Vilai, is a good woman, and Gerard, a good man, good husband and good dad. Gerard and his wife are being forced live apart, surviving on emails and phone calls. Gerard does not need to work, having paid off his mortgage. Yet he works, yet he pays his taxes, and yet he is kept apart from his wife.

To be together in the UK they must now embark on further unnecessary onerous bureaucracy to satisfy a cold heartless agency doing this government’s cruel callous bidding. Family friendly? Gerard and Vilai think not; to the UKBA they are just two more pawns contributing towards statistics showing what a good job 'they' are doing to protect ‘our borders’ and ‘the taxpayer’. But Gerard too is a taxpayer.

Thon has never been married before, nor had any children. Thon would prefer they live in Thailand, near her mum and four sisters, but Gerard prefers the UK, where his home and children are. So Vilai is prepared to give up her family, friends and career so that Gerard doesn’t have to give up his.

Gerard is very accomplished having attended university not once, but four times. He has been self-employed most of his life, and was a professional photographer for about 25 years, in the Cumbria area. He has worked hard, worked long hours and made many weddings and other events memorable for many British families. Indeed, when his work expanded to include a letting agency renting out holiday homes in the Loire Valley, Gerard’s photos were even featured on the front cover of Chez Nous.

The work was very successful and Gerard and his first wife contributed a lot in taxes to the British
government. To help develop the business further, Gerard went to study French: conversation classes, A-level at night school, a BA at university starting at age 47, at every level he was encouraged to go further.

He soon closed his studio and rented it out as half shop, half flat. All however wasn’t to continue smoothly.

In 2002, two years into his BA degree, Gerard’s wife of 24 years admitted to an ongoing affair. Gerard was shattered and subsequently diagnosed with severe clinical depression.

As one must do, however, he learnt to move on, going to work in a BT call centre before completing his degree at university where, despite the upheavals, he succeeded in obtaining a 2:1, a hair's breadth away from a first. With his qualifications, he was offered work at a university in Brittany (France), as a language assistant. Gerard spent a year in France while also completing the divorce proceedings. Many of his students were the children of families from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and all delightful students.

He was able to retain his house and studio ... and a hefty mortgage; his other assets, including his share of the French business, went to his now ex-wife. Gerard knows all about beans on toast and no heat; better that than claim benefits. He is a proud man.

Gerard went on to complete an MA TEFL course, again at university, just six weeks after burying his mum, aged 97 years. Both Gerard’s uncles (John and Thomas) died in World War One, in 1917 (Ypres) and 1918 (between Arras and Cambrai), aged 21 and 20.

Gerard completed the MA, along with students from Greece, Iran, China and Taiwan, for whom he did some proofreading. He worked so hard he got a distinction for his dissertation.

Being over 50, Gerard found obtaining work difficult. He spent some savings on renovating his home. In the summer of 2007, he worked as a postman for a short period, followed by some proofreading work. Then he spent several months helping his elder son renovate the house he had bought in north Manchester – hard unpaid physical graft. Gerard had planned to sell his house, pay off his mortgage and perhaps move to France, but helping his son meant he got caught up in ‘the crash’, and he missed the boat.

So he rented out his renovated house and went to France on the off chance that some work would come his way. He succeeded in obtaining a language assistant job in Lille. As before, he paid all the deductions in France and living/ travelling expenses (not tax deductible), more tax on his French salary in the UK, and tax on his rental income. He came back to find the flat he had ented out trashed, not for the first time, and had to spend several weeks sorting that out.

In late 2009 Gerard was fed up, lonely and disillusioned. However, finally, things were to take a turn for the better; the mortgage was nearly paid off and Gerard met his now wife, Vilai. They spent a lot of time together in Thailand and the UK.

Last year Gerard applied for a visit visa in Bangkok, but was turned down, with the usual ‘insufficient reason to return’, despite having a long-term job to go back to and proof of same. While querying the decision, Gerard contacted his MP’s office and other individuals. Mysteriously, the decision was reversed and no explanation was given. Gerard wanted Vilai to marry him while she was here, but Vilai had promised her boss she would go back, and so she did.

The plan last December was for Gerard to spend more time with Vilai, his fiancée, and proceed to marriage if and when they were both sure. She always was, he became so, despite and perhaps because of some cultural differences.

Finally, one fine day, they got married. The intention was Gerard would return to UK with his wife, but they were hit by the English test requirement; it had to be taken and passed before applying for a visa, along with the health checks.

Gerard firmly believes, in line with various studies, that the place to learn English is in an English-speaking country, by immersion (acquisition), not just in a classroom. Soon it became apparent that they would not be travelling together as Gerard had urgent matters to attend to at home. Gerard did at least hope that his wife would be with him in time for the Olympic torch coming through his village. Alas, it was not to be.

Thon sat the English test in March and passed first time, although it took until May for the certificate to arrive. There was then an IOM query over her TB test, and it took another two months for the all-clear to be received. All these delays meant that they could not submit a spouse visa application before 9 July.

Finally, in August, Vilai was able to apply for a settlement visa, pay over £800 (Gerard reimbursed her of course) and wait up to 12 weeks for the UKBA to decide if this married couple could live together.

Worse was to come. Vilai’s application was rejected as the UKBA wanted a vast array of additional
documentation. No chance was given to respond. It was a rejection, and probably another £800+ to be paid before they would consider this spouse's application again.

The UKBA appears to be happy to advise what they want after they turn you down; then, on subsequent applications, they may find something else, and so it goes on. They don’t ask for more information during the waiting period, which is scandalous.

What does Gerard think of all this? He thinks it’s appalling. What should have been a happy joyous time after a decade of misery turned into an edelweiss trampled on by jackboots. HMRC is happy to accept the thousands he pays in taxes, meanwhile the UKBA is even happier to take the visa application fees, and find spurious reasons to reject visa applications, in order to take yet more fees.

This government doesn’t care how long they keep married couples apart; they don’t care about British citizens and their spouses; they don’t seem to respect marriage or family. Article 8 is just a thorn in their side. All British citizens hear about are scam marriages, terrorists, drug dealers and people-trafficking.

They somehow seem to have forgotten that there are still many decent honest citizens who just want to live their lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment