“Whilst we are now united, we do worry about those who would not be able to go through this extremely expensive process of appeals and multiple applications”
Robert, a British citizen met Zahra from Bahrain, online in 2007 when they were 16 years old. The two grew close very quickly, with the relationship adopting a romantic element around February 2008. In August of the same year, Zahra moved from Bahrain to the United States for university.
During her four years there, she visited Robert in the UK every winter, summer and spring break, moving here for her Master's degree in Human Rights in 2012.
The couple planned to get married after Zahra had completed university and followed through on this, subsequently applying for a spouse visa. However like so many, the couple didn’t fully understand the immigration rules, which were vague and complex. Although the couple had cash savings of over £17,000 they did not yet earn in excess of £18,600 and so their application was put on hold in February 2014, pending the result of the MM case.
The couple did not know what to do, though hoped that it would eventually be successful.
In May 2014, whilst their application was still on hold and Home Office held on to Zahra's passport, Zahra applied for a job with Poppy Project which advocates for female victims of human trafficking. She got the job which meant that now the couple earned well over £18,600, and as Zahra was legally working in the UK, her income could count towards the threshold as well. (Those on student visas can work 20 hours a week during term time.)
The couple decided they would wait the six months needed to accumulate more payslips before re-applying or sending in more evidence to support their earlier application. However, their application was refused in August 2014, still three months short of their needing six months worth of payslips to show a total income in excess of £18,600.
It was at this time that the couple contacted a solicitor, to put in an appeal with the aim being to delay the hearing for as long as possible so as to enable the couple to collate six months of payslips.
This last minute change, after all the stress and adrenalin nearly led to Zahra breaking down. They were then advised by the solicitor that they may be better off withdrawing the appeal and starting a fresh application, although this meant losing their right to appeal. However the prospect of spending nearly two years in limbo did not appeal, so they took the solicitor's advice, withdrawing the appeal and making a fresh application in January 2015. After 6 stressful and emotional weeks, the couple finally received the decision they had been hoping for, and Zahra was granted leave to remain for 30 months.
Whilst the couple is thankfully united, they continue to worry about those who would not be able to go through this extremely expensive process. Despite being in their early 20s, the couple is aware they are privileged enough to be able to pay the expensive fees for the appeal and multiple applications.
Zahra still panics thinking about what would have happened if she hadn't gotten the job at the Poppy Project, and is humbled in realising that so many people in their situation are not as lucky.
The couple firmly believes that this government not only mistreats the working classes, but also discriminates against young people who are just starting their careers and may not be able to meet the financial criteria. So many people in the UK remain blissfully unaware of these rules enforced by their own government, until it happens to someone close to them, when it's followed by disbelief and 'But they're British.'.
It is a shameful part of the government’s policies. While btoh Zahra and Robert are very happy and grateful that this process has eventually worked for them, they are determined that they will not stop drawing attention to the unfair treatment loving families receive in this country.