"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.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Rachel & Ahmed

“We haven’t applied for a spouse visa yet..the new rules have left us fearful and in a kind of limbo.”

Rachel is a 23 year old British citizen, a university student reading Arabic and Art History. She is married to Ahmed, from Egypt.

As part of her degree Rachel had the option of spending a year abroad in Egypt, Palestine or Jordan. She opted for Egypt as three years previously she had visited Cairo to assess the suitability of her degree, where she met Ahmed during a flat search.

After Rachel left Egypt they kept in touch via Skype and three months later, she was visiting him in Egypt once again. Three months after that, he came to stay with Rachel and her family in Cornwall for Christmas. Since then, they haven't gone for longer than 3 months without seeing each other, be it in Cairo, during term-time in London or with Rachel’s family in Cornwall.

When they got engaged, they planned to marry during Rachel’s year abroad because a lot of her friends from university would be able to attend and balance out Ahmed’s big family at the wedding!

Rachel had heard about some new changes to the rules at the time, but didn't really think anything of it – she assumed it would be higher application fees or the like. She never expected they would raise the income threshold to £18,600 p.a. and restrict financial support. Indeed, a friend who had married an Egyptian was allowed to have her parents as providers of third party support for his visa (this was before July 2012). As they knew Rachel would have her final year at university to complete, Rachel was also relying on her parents to do the same (and they were happy to), with Ahmed staying with Rachel during her last year in London.


Rachel is on course for a first-class degree and fairly confident of her earning potential after she graduates – however she firmly believes it should not just be her capacity to work and earn a decent salary which should count. She finds it frustrating that neither the spouse's earning potential nor his financial situation are taken into account.

If the government is so keen to ensure no burden on taxpayer, then given Ahmed will already have a clear ‘no recourse to public funds’ in his passport – surely it’s his financials which should be taken into account?

The same company that Ahmed works for in Egypt are currently advertising for the same job in England, with an annual salary of £36,000 - this is obviously much, much higher than the company pays their employees in Egypt.

Ahmed is qualified, has a good command of English and therefore good job prospects, which would be of great help to Rachel as a final year university student, in terms of rent and other expenses which Ahmed would help out with.

Rachel has never claimed benefits and has no interest in doing so, either. Both their families are able to help them out should they find themselves in a difficult situation – so no reason why third party support should not count.

After three years of going back and forth - though their relationship is more than worth all the travel they have endured – they are tired. They want to be able to plan their future but at the moment, in addition to the political instability in Egypt, everything seems so uncertain.

At present they’re applying for Ahmed’s family visit visa so at least he can come and visit Rachel while she is at university.

Rachel considered putting off her studies to go down the Surinder Singh route, but that would pose an unnecessary financial burden – without much of a time saving on her completed her degree and going straight into employment.

She has however postponed her decision to do a Master's degree!

Political instability in Egypt aside, Rachel needs to be in the UK. Her Dad passed away, and she is the only child and grandchild. While the government claim she can exercise her right to a family life with her husband elsewhere, what about her Mum and Nana's right to a family life especially when her Nana is not able to travel?

It does seem to this couple, that in their aim to bring down net migration, not only is the government keeping foreigners out of the country, but trying to encourage British citizens to leave too.

Rachel and Ahmed married in March 2013. After spending an amazing nine months in Egypt, it's been hard readjusting to life back in the UK without her husband. She barely feels like a newly-wed!

She considered staying back in Egypt for the summer, but thought it would be best to come back and work and try to earn as much money as possible to put aside for the future. Ahmed is doing the same in Egypt.

It really is demoralising to know that despite the no recourse to public funds, the couple may not be able to start to build their lives together until at least a year from now.

It has put pressure on Rachel to find a job immediately after she graduates, which in the current climate of internships and focus on the importance of gaining experience (i.e. an acceptable form of unpaid employment) it is difficult for her to remain optimistic - but it's all they can do in the face of these new rules.

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