"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.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Alexis and Miad

Alexis and Miad are a couple divided by the UK's immigration rules. This is their story, in their own words :

'I MET MIAD in 2005, through shared interests online. We became good friends.

In 2007 we decided we wanted to become a couple. Miad is from Iran and I am Scottish. We were desperate to meet; so, in August 2008. after one year of being in an online relationship, I travelled 4000 miles to meet this man who I had fallen in love with.

I travelled with my two children (who at the time were 5 and 7) to Iran for a month. Miad didn't have a passport at that time and was studying at university (the Iranian government doesn't give males a passport until they have completed national service), so for us to meet I had to travel there.

We all loved every second of it. None of us wanted to come home! My son cried when we had to leave.

And while I was in Iran, Miad and I became engaged!

In June 2009 I returned, this time for three weeks. I travelled alone.

By now, Miad had left university and was working. In May, he had been called up for military service. We had planned to get married while I was there - but the Iranian officials didn't make it easy. I was told that after marriage, I would automatically become an Iranian citizen - meaning that I would effectively forfeit my British passport as Iran doesn't recognise dual nationality. I didn't like this idea, so instead we opted for a temporary marriage.

This was a possible solution because it is illegal to have a boyfriend/girlfriend in Iran (crazy in our society, I know)! So to prevent ourselves from getting in trouble with the authorities undertook a 'temporary marriage' for fifty years. We went through an Islamic ceremony, paid fees, and exchanged rings. I also had to convert to become a Muslim.

The temporary marriage thing was another step of commitment for us at the time. I returned home and in November 2010, my children and I returned to Iran to visit for a month. Miad's 20 month service would be up in January and then, we could think of a way for us to be together.

We had planned for Miad to join me in the UK. I have two children who have lives in the UK, as well as their father being in the UK, and I would not have them separated from their father. My children come first! So, we planned for Miad to join me in the UK when his national service ended.

At the time, I was studying full time. For Miad to join me in the UK on a spouse visa, I would need to leave college. I didn't want to give up my studies!  So, after some discussion we decided that the next step would be for Miad to study in the UK and come here as a student.

It took a while to collect the required funds for the visa and for the college fees - in fact we needed nearly £4000 in fees, and also he need to have £7200 in the bank for 28 days to show that he could support himself financially. It's hard to do that in a country such as Iran! But, with effort, he got everything he needed together. Furthermore he had to apply at the British embassy in Turkey (as there was no embassy in Irain) - more time, more money!

In June 2012, Miad travelled from Iran to Turkey and applied for his student visa. I travelled to Turkey for a few days to support him. Ten days after I returned to the UK - he received his refusal letter!

Why was he refused? Because the bank he deposited his money in was suddenly, through no fault of his, added to a blacklist! In May, he had been informed that the UK government accepted the bank he used, but suddenly it was blacklisted, wasting time, money and effort.

Miad complained to the visa consultant who had been helping him (provided by the UK college). The consultant apologised over and over and said he would refund his visa fee.  The visa adviser said Miad could make another application - instead of going back to Iran, he could simple send the money directly to the college. Miad asked if this was allowed. The consultant told him that yes, this was allowed. So listening to his 'expert' advice, he re-applied. And, surprise surprise, he was refused again.  Miad was hopping mad! Again,  he given a meek apology and a feeble excuse that it had been fine for other students. This visa consultant again refunded his visa fee - but by this time Miad was again out of pocket from living in Turkey!

Why was Miad using this useless man's services? Because he had been told by the college that, if Miad didn't use him and his application was refused, he wouldn't get his college fees refunded!

Miad went back to Iran in August. He had to get the money back from the college which he put in an approved bank and waited until he could, go for a second time, to Turkey - in September - and apply for a third time.

Thankfully the application was now successful!
But, in the meantime, the family migration rules had changed. Miad arrived in the UK in October and started college straight away. His student visa expires in August.

In January I had to give up college. I was never able to complete my course, which would have helped me with a better job, a better career, a better future - for all of us. Because of these rules I need to find a job now to support him. I am not worried about finding a job. I am worried because it's hard to find one that gives me £18,600 - especially as I've had to give up my studies!

We've been told we can try apply outside the immigration rules, under Article 8. I am not so optimistic.

I am on medication for anxiety and depression. I'm scared about what will happen if we have to be separated again. What will happen if he has to leave our family - his family?

The threat of state-enforced separation is hanging over us.

We feel we have waited all this time to be together - and soon it will be snatched away.

It's not fair. It's not right.'

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