"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.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Tracey & Gary

“It’s difficult to believe that the UK makes wanting to live with the person you love an impossible wish.”

Tracey is a British citizen. She met her husband, Gary – an American citizen, online in 2010. In 2012 they formalised their relationship and got married.

Between their first meeting and the wedding, Gary visited Tracey ten times in the UK. They were originally going to apply for a fiancé visa in order to have the wedding in the UK, however then decided to marry in USA.

Tracey did actually meet the financial threshold, however as this was from the combined income from two part-time jobs including one in the form of accommodation through her job as an onsite property manager, it was more complex to demonstrate. So the couple engaged the services of an immigration lawyer, costing them over £1000.

They were assured by the lawyer that their case would be successful as it was obvious that Tracey was earning in excess of £18,600, although it would have to be explained clearly given the complexity of her work situation.

Hence the couple decided to put all their plans into motion. Gary gave up his apartment and car in the US, along with his car and worldly possessions, flights booked and plans for a civil ceremony made.

Throughout all this they gathered the information and documents needed to apply for the spouse visa – the amount of evidence required was monumental.

Tracey and Gary married in the USA in December 2012 and flew to the UK together for Christmas. Gary’s return ticket was for January 2013, when he planned on returning to the USA to submit his visa application.

However, a week or so before he was scheduled to leave the UK, the lawyers made contact to say the application would in fact not be successful because Tracey does not meet the £18,600 requirement. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they spoke to the same lawyer who had provided the initial advice who now admitted his advice initially had not been correct. The rent compensation received by Tracey would not be seen as income; they were now told that the Home Office would need to see money going into a bank account, with the value of the accommodation benefit provided disregarded completely.

Their plans completely changed. Gary decided that rather than returning to the USA in January as planned, he would stay for the duration of his visitor’s visa while they assessed next steps.

Their lawyer advised them of the Surinder Singh process. So Tracey and Gary exercised their treaty rights by moving to Ireland in June 2013. Tracey has been working there from July and they are hoping to one day return to the UK to begin the life they had imagined.

Tracey has worked since she was 16 years old. She has always been self sufficient and has never claimed benefits, instead contributing into the system all of her working life. Gary is educated, speaks English and plans to also work here as soon as he is able to. They are both an asset to the UK.

However because of these immigration rules the couple is having to start over in their late 40s – a time when most people are able to be settled and comfortable with their family.

The move to Ireland has not been plain sailing. They had trouble sorting out accommodation, dealing with the different laws there around rentals and letting fees. Pressure to find a job meant effectively taking the first thing on offer, even where for Tracey this has meant a job engaging in laborious work.

For Tracey, leaving the UK and her elderly parents was especially heart wrenching.

But it’s a means to an end for a couple who just want to be able to live together.

Though this entire process has been difficult and traumatic the couple persevered; they are grateful that EU rules allow them to be together even where their own country has tried its best to keep them apart.

It is ironic that now not only has the UK lost Tracey’s taxes, and those that Gary would have paid had he been allowed to work, but also that when they return to the UK they will both qualify for benefits. Although not so inclined, given their savings have been spent on the move to Ireland, they may well need to until new jobs are found.

It's very hard for Tracey and Gary not to end up feeling completely cynical and embittered. One can't help who one falls in love with, and it’s perfectly reasonable to want to spend your life with them. It’s hard to believe that the UK makes that sometimes seem an impossible wish.

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