"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.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

BritCits United Family of the Week - Nick & Courtney

“We are a real family and have the right to live as such.”

Nick is a British citizen married to Courtney, from America. 

When Nick met Courtney, his now wife, it was a romance like any other, at least at the beginning.  Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl and girl (eventually) falls for boy.  Except this boy and girl are from two different countries.  Nick is from Southampton, England and Courtney from Chicago, USA.  A sequence of events led to them both being in a little town in Central Louisiana at the same time – and from then on, the course of their lives would never be the same.  

It was November 2003 when Nick and Courtney began what they both thought would be a short lived fun flirtation.  With Nick due to return to England in December they hardly had the time to allow themselves to get caught up in one another, but you know what they say about the best laid plans… 

While Courtney’s brain and heart were in constant battle, she couldn’t stop herself from falling in love with Nick, particularly after a surprise Thanksgiving trip he made to her native Chicago.  There he met with Courtney’s family, friends, and was taken on a whirlwind tour of the city and Courtney’s old haunts. 

For Courtney, it was the trip that sealed the deal and opened her eyes to the chance that the man she was dating could be her future husband and best friend.

After only a month of dating, Nick returned to England and the couple was left broken-hearted.  Courtney was swept up into an international love story; a rollercoaster of fun, adventure, romance but also devastation and heart-wrenching goodbyes at airport terminals.

So Courtney did what any girl would do. She followed her man across the Atlantic, beginning the accumulation of frequent flier miles and a continuation of an international love story.

The time together in England was magical.  Courtney met Nick’s family and friends. She learnt about our culture and was swept away by it all.  Shortly after returning to Louisiana, Courtney decided to look into options of moving to the UK, to allow them to continue the relationship without it being a long-distance romance.  

Courtney was successful in obtaining a work visa through Bunac and a student visa through the exchange program between Louisiana College and Brunel in London.  She came to the UK as soon as possible, living with Nick’s family for six months until moving to London for her semester at Brunel.  When the exchange program was completed, Nick and Courtney were practically inseparable.  It was clear they were in it for the long haul.  However Courtney had to return to the US to finish her degree in Wisconsin.

Several years later after many trips back and forth, they decided the good-byes had to stop and they got married in July 2007.  While this relationship started in Louisiana and blossomed in England, it became official in Wisconsin, where Nick and Courtney got married and currently reside with their toddler son.  

Their plan has always been to return to England to raise their family and after many hard knocks in the US, they opted to fast track the plan and move to the UK in March 2013.  Little did this family know that since last looking at the immigration requirements, things had taken a turn for the worse. 

Courtney is amazed our rules are more stringent and imposing than in America, which despite being a process rife with red tape, welcomed Nick, granting granted him permanent residency. 

Nick never imagined the hurdles the family would have to go through to allow him to live in his home country with his family.  This couple had thought they had shared their last goodbye once they got engaged in 2006.  On the day they said their, I do’s, it never occurred to them that they’d be going through the same thing six years later...let alone putting their son and families through the same emotional ordeal.

The family has been apart since May 2013.  It’s difficult enough being away from your best friend and partner but to have their child without his father is just indescribably cruel and difficult to explain to a child.  The whole family has been ripped apart and what should have been a fun summer running after their little boy together has become misery. 

With the couple missing celebrating together their six year wedding anniversary and Elliott’s 3rd birthday, the family is growing desperate to find a way to reunite. 

Nick is yet to find a job paying over the magical £18,600.  However even once he does, it’s a wait of over six months while he collects pay slips, and then the application processing period which can take several months in itself at the most optimistic.

Nick and Courtney have good days and bad days; as the time passes though, their patience is running out and so are their options.  The family is considering exercising the treaty rights afforded to them by the EU in order to be a family – a right denied to them by our own government. 

They are still keen on making England their home; being close to Nick’s family and allowing Elliott the opportunity to learn about his culture and bond with his family...but they’re also finding it hard to rationalise staying and paying taxes in a country that so clearly does not want them.

To say that this couple was blindsided by these new requirements is an understatement.  There have been a lot of tears, anger, and resentment but in adversity the couple is also getting stronger, especially through the support network they have come across with others similarly affected by clearly unfair immigration rules.

This is a real family with the right to live as such.  They have faith that with love in their hearts and fight in their gut, they will triumph over a ludicrous government policy.  For now the family takes each day as it comes in the hope that something will materialise allowing mum, dad and Elliott to be all together again.

Nick and Courtney's story is also in video form:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFxCcrBcWmU

Update: I recall meeting Nick on 9 July 2013.  He seemed a little lost, baffled by how his own government could separate him from his family.  Informing Nick of EU treaty rights, I could see the hope once more, the chance that in fact there was something he could do himself for his family. 

In September 2013, the family moved to Ireland, relieved to finally be able to be together.  They exercised the right to live togehter as a family, such a basic right denied to them by the UK government, but afforded to them by the EU.

In April 2014 the family relocated to the UK, with Nick having genuinely and effectively exercised his treaty rights in Ireland, he could now be classed as an EU rather than a British citizen.  Freedom from immigration hassles was also met with the arrival of baby Evelyn, much cherished daughter and sister to Nick, Courtney and Elliott, and grandaughter to Nick's parents who are glad to be able to be able to have their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the same country.

Thursday 24 September 2015

BritCits newsletter 23rd September

The  newsletter from 23rd September, covering:
  • Immigration in the Rugby World Cup
  • Children's Commissioner speaks out against family immigration rules separating children from parents
  • Adult Dependant Relatives
  • McCarthy and FOI
  • Family of the Week - Aimie and David
Previous versions are available by clicking on 'Past Issues' on the top left hand side at the link above.

If you'd like to receive the newsletters directly into your inbox, please sign up here.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

BritCits newsletter 27th August

The news-letin from 27th August is now online, covering:
  • The crisis in the Mediterranean and Calais
  • Visa processing statistics from the HO in Manila
  • Family of the week - Amanda & Tony
 Previous versions are available by clicking on 'Past Issues' on the top left hand side at the link above.

If you'd like to receive the newsletters directly into your inbox, please sign up here.

BritCits United Family of the Week - Aimie & David

I can’t just move to another country to be with my fiancé [now husband] with three years left to complete my Masters degree. I cannot simply drop out of university and earn £18600, as I don’t have the work experience and would not have the qualifications without the degree, to earn that figure.”

Aimie is a British citizen and in the second year of her MSc (Chemistry) at University of Nottingham.  She is 24 years old and now married to David, a 25-year-old Masters graduate from Colombia.  David recently majored in Advanced Computer Science, also at University of Nottingham.

Aimie’s husband is very employable; he is fluent in English, has a master’s degree and has experience in his field of work of software development. He would not be requesting access to public funds, nor would he become a burden on the economy. 

Under the previous rules, the means to meet the financial requirement to demonstrate that they would not need to access public funds.  However, new rules brought in requiring Aimie to earn £18,600 (regardless of David’s earnings) mean this couple is facing years apart.  Because David is Colombian.
Aimie has been told that for them to meet the financial requirement for her husband’s visa, she would have to have been earning a salary of £18600 for at least 6 months prior to the visa application.  However, as she is a student, they have been relying solely on their part-time jobs and scholarships.
Aimie feels the new rules for financial requirement are unjust as they don’t take into account individual circumstances.  Aimie cannot simply move to another country for them to be together as she still has three years left at university. She also cannot simply drop out of university and earn £18600, as she doesn’t have the work experience and would not have the qualifications without her degree, to earn that figure.

Indeed, on minimum wage she would earn approximately £12000, which is far off the threshold.

To Aimie it’s nonsensical how £18,600 could be considered reasonable; as a student she receives less than half of that income, and is still able to pay her bills.  The unemployed people on JSA are earning less than that figure and are able to live.

Aimie does not need luxury items to love her husband.

Update: The couple applied for David's first spouse visa in January2013 - they were extremely worried and feared a negative outcome.  Being students, they worked part-time and had to provide evidence of satisfying the income threshold using a combination of six jobs in one year.  This proved to be quite confusing for the couple and no doubt the caseworker, because of the increased bureaucracy underlying the rules even for those who do eventually meet the financial threshold.

The couple was only just over the required £18,600 so even while they were waiting for the visa to be processed, they were planning exercising free movement rights to move to Ireland, just in case the outcome was negative.  Aimie made the arrangements to do one year of her course abroad, but fortunately they did not have to make such a move because the visa was granted.

During the first period of David's visa the couple's situation became more financially stable.  Aimie had been studying throughout and David, having tried out several jobs, finally found a place suiting his skills, bringing in the bacon so to speak.  The second stage of the visa application  in September 2015 (spouse visas are issued for only 30 months, so before they can reach the required five year period for permanent residency status, they must re-apply and once again show satisfying the income requirement - yes there's a lot of red tape!) was a little smoother as the couple this time were able to rely on David's income alone from a job he had been working in for over six months - making the paperwork much simpler than the earlier application.  They paid a premium for a same-day application and were granted the extension.

The future will see David making progress in his career as a Software Developer, while Aimie will pursue further education, starting her doctoral studies in Chemistry in October 2015.  No doubt something she would not have been able to do without David by her side.

However, the couple are very aware of the rules and recall how stressful their lives have been because of them; they're aware that their lives could completely change if their financial circumstances, even temporarily take a wrong turn and they strongly feel these rules, which though they now meet, are unfair.

Aimie and David remain strong in the knowledge they are just a couple of steps away from removing all interference from the Home Office in their marriage, with David application for ILR expected to be in 2018.  However on the off-chance that something goes wrong the couple is united and stronger in the knowledge that come what may, they will travel wherever they need to, do whatever they must do, to stay together.  Their love will triumph the UKVI and the Home Office.