"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 14 November 2013

Nigerian husband of pregnant Brit denied visa

The Home Office has appealed against the decision to let the Nigerian husband of a pregnant British woman remain in the UK.

The appeal follows the reversal of the decision to refuse her husband a spouse visa by a First Tier judge.

However, the Home Office believes the judge made an error of law by taking into account the best interests of their unborn child.

When British national Becky, 23, met her Nigerian husband-to-be in the UK in December 2010, she had no idea of the hurdles which would lie ahead when the time would come to establish family life together in the UK.

Uzo, Becky’s 33-year-old Nigerian partner, arrived in the UK as a visitor. His subsequent enrollment in the British Army as a trainee combat engineer allowed him to extend his visa more than once, with a view to applying for a two-year work visa at the end of his training. 

But Uzo turned 32 – the cut-off point for applying to join the army – before he could complete his training.

In May 2012, Becky and Uzo got married, and Uzo applied for Further Leave to Remain based on his marriage a month later. His application was made just before significant amendments to the UK’s family migration rules came into force.  

The new rules, introduced in July 2012 and the cause of much anguish among couples such as Becky and Uzo, require British nationals to have an annual income of GBP 18,600 in order to sponsor a non-EEA spouse to settle in the UK.

After a 10-month wait, Uzo was refused a visa on the grounds he had taken the wrong English language exam and that his visa at the time of application was valid for less than six months. The fact Uzo had been in the UK legally for two years prior to application was not considered. 

The couple lodged an appeal against the refusal since they had no way of successfully reapplying under the new rules due to Becky, who was a fine art student in Liverpool at the time, not being able to meet the income requirements.  

A few weeks after giving notice of appeal Becky discovered she was pregnant. “Although we knew our situation wasn't the best to bring a child into, we could not consider an abortion as this was not a decision we should feel forced into because of the immigration laws, and we hoped that our appeal would be successful before our baby was born,” said Becky.

At 25 weeks pregnant, their case was heard and two weeks later, the appeal was allowed under Article 8 due to the best interests of their child. “We breathed the hugest sigh of relief”, said Becky.

But the relief didn’t last long. Four days after the allowed time limit for giving notice of appeal, the Home Office appealed the decision based on the notion the First Tier judge had made an error of law by taking into consideration the best interests of the couple’s unborn child.

Despite the lateness of the application, which the couple later discovered was due to the case officer being on sick leave, the appeal was allowed.

The process has taken its toll on Becky’s heath and well-being, “I have became so distressed and ill with the thought that we have to continue this fight,” said Becky. “At a time when it is of the utmost importance for a woman to be looking after her health, I am experiencing panic attacks, my blood pressure has shot up and I can not sleep,” she added.

The couple has since discovered their baby has a kidney problem and possibly a chromosomal disorder.

With just two weeks to go until the Upper Tier Tribunal hearing, at which time Becky will be 37 weeks pregnant, Becky and Uzo are bracing themselves for the possibility of a ruling which will require Becky to move to Nigeria should she wish to enjoy family life with her husband. “Why should I leave my entire support system, culture and family behind?” asked Becky.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to Abia, the southeastern Nigerian state where Uzo comes from.

“We just don't know what our future holds right now,” said Becky. “My husband wants nothing more than the right to work and support his pregnant wife and future son, and to pay taxes and contribute to UK society,” she added.

The immigration rules make no concessions in cases which involve children. Applicants who are parent to a British child must endure the same five-year route to settlement as other applicants, regardless of the length of the couple’s relationship. 

Successful spouse visa applicants are given the right to work but have no access to benefits during the probationary period, during which time the couple must demonstrate they can meet the financial requirements a further two times.

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