"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 27 July 2013

Rebecca and Wes

I want a kidney from Theresa May!

'My husband, Wesley, at the age of 42, moved here to the US to marry me in 2005.  He moved here primarily because we didn't wish to relocate my teenage son.  My husband was anxious to begin a new life in America, but through the years we both began to talk about a return to the UK.  My husband's health suffers poorly in our temperature extremes, for one.  At any rate, we always felt we could "go home" when we were ready.  The Home Office would recognize our marriage as legitimate because it was more than four years old; they would require me to have a visa and  would require we have enough income or savings to support ourselves; they would cover that visa with a stamp in my American passport that said "no recourse to public funds".  This was all fine with us.  We knew before July 2012 that governments have rules and don't expect people to just waltz in.

'Now - we cannot go back to the UK together, as a married couple - unless we prove we have £62500 in savings.  Instead, we must endure a lengthy separation while my husband goes back to Britain -  finds a job earning more than £18600 - and works that job for at least another six months - before we can even file with the Home Office to be reunited.  Or - unless he can procure a job in the UK, whilst still in the US, that earns that amount, AND can prove he has earned the US equivalent of £18600 in the last year.

'My husband is a simple man.  I am the breadwinner in our family.  I have worked since I was 16 years old, and am presently the assistant to the Director of a large division (400 employees) of a mental health provider.  But my income in the US - our life and the fact we have never been on benefits in our married life - does not count towards the sponsorship requirements.  My future earning potential in the UK does not count.  My husband is what you call (in the UK) a "carer".  He attends to developmentally delayed individuals in a group day setting.  His work is valuable and necessary to society.  He is GOOD at his job - the individuals love him, and he loves them.  But it doesn't pay the US equivalent of £18600, and it would not pay £18600 in the UK.  So - the third option I listed above is out for us.  It is either have vast savings or separate and look for work.

'We would be returning to a life in Northern Ireland - the odds of my husband getting a job, in NI, in his field that pays £18600 are slim to none.  But he COULD get a job as a carer - there are plenty of those jobs out there, even in the UK's economic climate.  But those jobs, while they would pay a livable wage in Northern Ireland, are insufficient under the new rules.  The new rules don't just "punish" those who are in lower wage professions - they punish people who live outside the south of England - areas with lower wages.

'If we were to sell off our home and possessions to move to the UK, we would have approximately £20000 in savings.  Under the old rules, this would have been more than enough for the Home Office to grant me a visa.  And, IF we were so inclined to try and get benefits, that amount of money would prevent it.  Under the old rules, I could not possibly have become "a public charge".  In short - we are not "skivers and shirkers".

'My husband suffers from polycystic kidney disease.  I cannot send him back to the UK, alone, to look for work.  He is on a special diet that I am sure he would not be able to maintain as a "bachelor" living by himself.  His blood pressure requires constant monitoring.  I am his "carer" as well as his wife and partner.  Even with the NHS on hand, my husband would fall into ill health if he had to go back alone, for many months possibly a year or more, to look for work to satisfy the Home Office requirements.

'I have been active in immigration message boards across the internet for eight years now.  I advise on three boards and have written two articles for the Transpondia website.  I only mention this because I want you to know that neither I or my husband would expect any government to just blithely swing open its doors for us just because we are "in love".  We know there are always rules, and we followed those rules to bring my husband to the US.  But these measures by the current coalition government to restrict migration at the expense of families are harsh indeed.  The financial requirements are FAR more harsh than spousal visas to the United States (I would idly note that the Home Office misrepresented the US family immigration system in its consultation report to the public and to Parliament).  And I mention Internet message boards because the reaction of British expats, across those communities, is one of deep disappointment; of dismay; and sometimes of utter misery.  Many now feel "exiled" from Britain.

'Because I read the internet so much (perhaps more than I should) I know that much of the web "focus" regarding these rules has been on couples who are living apart at the moment.  In most internet writings, there is a British citizen, in the UK, who is separated from a loved one.  The issue of the Expat, abroad with their foreign spouse, gets less mention - even by groups like Migrants Rights Network.  But the new rules are just as devastating to the Expat as to a UK citizen living at home (check out the fourm "Returning to the UK" on BritishExpats.com for proof).   And in my opinion, the rules are a clever craft of the magic concept of "net migration" to keep out people who have already left.  For it feels like the British government never wants its people to return.  At least not with a non-EU spouse.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to the Transpondia online forum which focusses on international relationships : 

A British citizen has been sentenced to ill health and exile by his own government, in the name of a meaningless immigration target.

“Our native soil draws all of us, by I know not what sweetness, and never allows us to forget.”
― Ovid

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