After the House of Commons Debate on Spousal VISAs yesterday, where our Minister of Parliament didn’t even show up (I’m looking at you http://www.keithsimpson.com) despite the fact that we wrote him an e-mail ahead of time, where “back-benchers” were basically told by one Mark Harper (http://www.markharper.org) that the system works more-or-less exactly the way that they want it to and short of being ordered to do so, they aren’t changing anything.
Which is disappointing to say the least. My Husband and I are, like so many others, stuck in a legal limbo, without good cause (the excuse that one cannot control whether or not someone who shouldn’t receive government funds once they are here is so unbearably laughable it isn’t even funny – how hard is it to ask someone for their Passport and inspect the print on the VISA in there that is written in BOLD that the holder has “no recourse to public funds”?) not because we did anything wrong, but decided to do things right.
It wasn’t easy, my Husband has to work the equivalent of a full-time job and a half to make the £18,600 requirement just to sponsor me. Long hours, low pay with the added stress that his hours could fluctuate at any moment (no-thanks to those Zero-hour contracts that a growing percentage of the UK population, also without justification, have to somehow live on) at no fault of his own. He isn’t an uneducated man; he holds a Masters degree and is finishing up on a Ph.D., he runs his own business, he’s studying complementary medicine, all while holding down a normal job – he’s hard working and dedicated, no on can argue that. It was through all that hardship that he was even able to make the audacious income requirement.
Because the rules are written as they are, even then, he had to take on added burdens on top of that. The UKBA doesn’t accept the deductions that HMRC does for his business – for no good reason, he had to pay an additional £1,000 each year. Then there were the legal fees because they unjustly (we assume they just somehow failed to notice the documentation was there, but even then, in the refusal letter we were never given a proper explanation) refused my Fiancé VISA application and we had to file an appeal – which we won. £500 more that could have been used to start our lives together but was all but flushed down the loo.
I had saved up almost $10,000 to start with, but because it wasn’t enough, my savings couldn’t be taken into account on the application (UKBA requires that it be a MINIMUM of £16,000 in savings AS WELL AS that mount being in the bank for at least 6 months before they will even consider it. Even then, it’s a complete quack-job because they apply a mathematical formula of something like 2.5xHow-much-you-still-need-to-offset. Which is like saying you need to more than DOUBLE in savings if you’re unemployed versus working, which makes absolutely no sense, but I digress…) and he didn’t have that much saved up, either. For us, the whole category was useless.
But we made the income requirement and we naïvely thought, with the fact that we were now married, that would be enough. We thought it would have been worth it to book a Public Enquiry Office Appointment; supposedly, it was faster and at almost £1,000 we expected it to be worth the extra £300 or so over the regular mail-in option.
With the help of our solicitor (another £100 – but it was better than going it alone), we complied everything and on the day of the appointment we arrived early. We used all of the same information we did for the first VISA; thinking that, since it was good enough to be approved on the appeal, it was still good enough here, right down to the Accountant that prepared my Husband’s taxes and Statement of Income. We waited a few minutes after going through security and then were directed to an Officer behind a barrier to review our documents.
Right off the bat, we’re told that the Accountant did not have the right certifications. Long and the short of it, we were told to get another Accountant to review and verify it – with the “proper” certifications – within 10 days. On top of this, it was requested that we get re-issued payslips for the most current month and one that was never received.
Thus began the race against the clock. On the way home, my Husband drove and I phoned every Accountancy office within a 10 mile radius, trying to find someone that would even consider LOOKING at our things within the time-constraint. After what felt like 100 calls, we managed to find one and he agreed to meet us that same day. Proving once again that we are quick workers, we gathered up all of the additional documentation requested and sent off by day 7.
I remember feeling aghast and frustrated, to say nothing about distressed about it all. The Officer had told us that a “proper” Accountant would know exactly what format the income needed to be in; yeah, that was wishful thinking on their part. In the same way that they aren’t accountants and can’t read a Statement of Income properly, an Accountant – irregardless of their certifications – does not understand or know Immigration rules. The New Accountant wrote a letter to say that he found no issues or discrepancies, provided copies of his certifications, but had no clue about what else they could possibly want or how they would want it. Even now I feel sorry for the Officer, because they were just making the statement out of vain hope that someone would throw them a bone and make the job – which had suddenly gotten a lot more complex with the new rules – easier.
After sending the information off, we found ourselves waiting again. It was a month later when we got a letter from the Home Office (AKA: UKBA), just now telling us that they had our “outstanding” (does that mean that it was good or does that mean that they thought it was somehow “past-due”? Because, again, we sent it in 3 days before the deadline) documentation and that, despite the fact that my Fiancé VISA is now EXPIRED, because there is an application pending, it will be extended until a decision is reached.
As of the 14th of this month – i.e. four days from now – it will have been two months since that letter arrived and we have seen nor heard anything else from them. We jumped through all of their hoops, went and fetched and proved everything that they requested – we met the requirements – and yet here we are, three months since the original application was submitted and we still don’t know what’s going on.
Then we’re told, in a debate about Spousal VISAs that the system is working exactly the way that they want it to function. I don’t have a means to prove my legitimacy in the UK until they make their verdict; I could be pulled aside in one of their vile spot-checks and arrested because I don’t have my passport with me. It’s terrifying, because it feels like every immigrant – documented, undocumented, legal or illegal – is being told that they are not welcome in the UK. Doubly so if they happen to be from an ethnic minority.
We are not alone in this, I know that. There would not be debates like these unless there were people like us suffering. I don’t WANT to wear the badge of honour reserved for spouses who have to contend with living on opposite sides of a boarder. I don’t WANT to be divided by a the great wall of Immigration. We haven’t committed any crimes, yet people like us are the ones that are punished.
I left a decent-paying job, my family, my pets, my life, my home and flew 4,000 miles to live with this man that I love. If it wasn’t for love, I never would have left the States – there is literally nothing in life with a stronger pull – I didn’t have to come to a country where I am told that, despite never having used government or public funds even back in the United States, I’m a waste of resources, that I’m a leech, a drain on the system; a system that I can’t even USE, even if I am rewarded the FLR(M) VISA because it STILL will say in BOLD: “No recourse to public funds.”
Like every other Immigrant, I am blamed for the lack of jobs, lack of higher-paying jobs, cuts in healthcare, cuts in education, cuts in benefits. But it isn’t my fault. I haven’t DONE anything. Like every other Immigrant, I stand on trial, accused of crimes that I have never committed and am told that I am guilty-until-proven-innocent.