UK Immigration Policy is a Quagmire of Shameless Ineptitude.
This is a tale of families being ripped apart; of astronomical failures of the state; of the eccentric Conservative M.P Jacob Rees-Mogg; Theresa ‘the Grinch’ May; and a slathering of Brexit for good measure.
UK immigration policy allows EU citizens to bring their Non-EU spouses to the UK without a visa. But a UK citizen cannot bring their own Non-EU spouse to the UK; even for a two-week holiday!
According to the naysayers the immigration front door has been wide open; the only way to now solve the problem, is to close the door completely on the easy targets; British families!
Families are being split apart at Christmas time; British Grandparents unable to spend time with their British Grandchildren; happily married husbands and wives living on different continents; and a big bureaucratic bowl of procedural blundering put in place to merely manipulate the statistics.
Of course, the issue is far more complicated than my world-weary analysis. The door was never wide open; just left slightly ajar.
When it comes to British immigration policy my family has experienced the rough end of the pineapple so to speak. However, my opening statement aside, I want to give a fair assessment of this complex and sensitive issue. However, it is a personal problem, so expect some mild to moderate ranting!
Let me explain my own experiences with the UK Immigration policy, and the reasons I believe the system needs a complete reboot.
I was born in the South West of England to endless generations of pasty Celts. For all I know my ancestors were hairy druids who sacrificed piglets under oak trees. The surnames of at least two of my grandparents can be traced to the medieval Somerset area, with suspected Celtic origins in that same region.
That all seems very peculiar to me now, that some of my ancestors may have lived in the same area for 1,000’s of years. When I hit my teenage years I had a strong urge to wander and see the world. I didn’t act on these urges until I was in my 20’s and I started working in oil and gas exploration; traveling and working across every continent. I eventually moved away from my home town, and lived in several different country’s before ending up in Colombia, where I live to this day with my wife who is Colombian, and our son who was born here in 2013.
In the early days of our marriage we rarely left the Americas, and I never returned to Europe for several years. My wife had never been to the UK, and we were in no rush to do so. However, the birth of our son changed things drastically. I was the first of my siblings to have a child and my mother desperately wanted a grandchild. We never imagined the difficulties that lie ahead, in allowing a grandmother to see her grandson.
The Victims’ Stories
My son was not born in the UK, but he is entitled to British Citizenship by decent. Through me, he is entitled to a British passport, but he cannot pass this right on to his own children unless he is living in the UK when they are born. In which case they will be British citizens by birth.
Seems fair enough! So far so good.
When he was born I applied for his British passport, which he was eventually issued without problem. As a dual national he also has a Colombian passport.
My mother of course, was desperate to see here new grandson in the flesh; and she was not prepared to wait for passports or visas. Both my parents came to Colombia when my son was a few months old. I will never forget the tears in her eyes when we opened the front door, and she saw the baby for the first time. A very special moment.
My parents are not particularly experienced travelers by any stretch of the imagination. Before coming to Colombia, their most daring destination had been a two-week all-inclusive in Turkey. You can imagine the culture shock they experienced in Colombia, but they handled it well, especially considering they are both in their late 70’s. They will be the first to admit they are no spring chickens. When my mother started to complain of pain in her legs we thought it was just the change in altitude and climate, or jet lag.
We spent the first few days traveling around visiting local tourist attractions. We spent a day at PANACA (Parque Nacional De La Cultura Agropecuaria), a farming based theme park and other exhilarating activities.
It was then my mother started to become seriously short of breath. We were now concerned enough to contact her travel insurance, and book a doctor’s appointment with a local physician. They initially assumed it was due to the altitude in the Andean region where we live. However, a scan showed my mother had several blood clots in her lower legs, most probably due to the flight as she had felt some discomfort immediately after landing. Ironically my mother had feared blood clots on such a long flight, and she was wearing a pair of NHS compression socks which her friend had given to her. She also walked up and down every 30 minutes, and undertook leg regular exercises as she had arrived on a daytime flight. This was not enough to prevent the blood clots.
My mother was given some blood thinners and medication to disperse the blood clots, which seems to work by the time she left a few weeks later. She was still taking the medication at the time of her return flight. On arrival back in England her symptoms returned and she was rushed to hospital where they discovered further blood clots had occurred, some of which had moved up the body into the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. These can often be fatal, but she is a tough old girl and managed to shake them off over a period of time.
The doctor advised my mother not to undertake any further such trips, due to the fact compression socks, leg exercises, regular walking, and on the return flight blood thinning medication, all failed to prevent blood clots.
“Don’t worry about that. We will come to the U.K” I said enthusiastically when my mother told me the news.
The U.K Visa System
We decided to apply for a holiday visa for my wife in 2016, with the plan to celebrate Christmas with our UK family that year. The guidance notes for a visa give you very clear instructions to a point. But leave a few ambiguous requirements for their own purposes.
The basic requirements are to
- Send your passport,
- Submit the applications forms
- Pay the fees
- Provide your bio-metrics at your local visa center
A secondary list suggests items you may also supply as supplementary evidence for your application.
We supplied the following –
- Invitation letters from my parents
- Financial documents to prove we could fund the vacation
- Trip itinerary
The first application was rejected with the simple reason of “Not providing enough evidence”.
With the second application we provided every document under the sun.
- Financial records for myself, my wife, and my parents for six months
- A reference letter from my wife’s bank
- A reference letter from our landlord
- Details of how we just renewed the lease on our house in Colombia
- Trip details
- Family trees
- Invitation letters
- Personal statements
A true wealth of evidence. Everything on the supplementary list.
Another flight to Bogotá for my wife to give her biometrics.
The visa was rejected with the very tactful reasoning “We dont believe you will return to Colombia”.
And here lies the key issue. All the other supplementary evidence is pretty worthless.
After taking legal advice from several visa solicitors, we were informed that the main thing they look for is cast iron proof the applicant will leave the UK after the visit. As stated in the visa guidelines the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove they are a genuine visitor.
All pretty basic stuff. But due to the current immigration climate the UK authorities are using the ambiguity of this caveat, to reduce immigration numbers by refusing tourists.
I wonder how many tourists rejections it takes to eliminate an ingenuine visitor? Talk about overkill.
A few ways you can provide proof you are a genuine visitor, could include a long-term ongoing employment contract in your home country; property owned; or businesses operated by the applicant in their home country. But none of these guarantee success.
My wife, returned to university ten days after giving birth, as she could not afford to miss anymore studying time. She eventually finished her studies and currently is a full-time mother looking after our 2-year old toddler. She is discriminated against in the visa system for this occupation.
To say my mother was devastated was an understatement.
She cried through all of October and most of November. After which she became slightly bitter; and eventually a touch militant.
On her insistence we organised a meeting with the local M.P, Jacob Rees-Mogg, for one of his constituency surgeries. I didn’t see much value in speaking with Mr Rees-Mogg to be honest. After studying it rigorously and taking expert legal advice, I knew the visa procedure inside out by now.
What added value could our Jacob bring to the table? M.P’s certainly can’t influence or instruct employees of the civil or diplomatic services. So I was assuming very little.
We booked the appointment in January for the first available surgery which was in March, at Radstock Methodist Church hall. A busy M.P!
On arrival we found several elderly protesters had infiltrated the Methodist church hall waiting room. They had erected banners and placards with scathing slogans such as “Down with this sort of Thing”, “Your Politeness doesn’t Fool Us” and “Fake Christian”.
Apparently, they had a bee in their bonnets about the lack of available appointments, and believed they were being lied to over appointment availability.
When I pointed out it took me nearly two months to get an appointment, they shouted me down and and demanded more surgeries per week.
Anyway, I digress.
We eventually battled our way through the the Methodist Church Hall madness, and had our audience with the ‘the Honourable Member for the 18th Century’. Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The Elephant in the Room
OK, not that it matters, but lets get some awkward issues out of the way.
I have never voted for Mr Rees-Mogg, nor have I ever voted for the Conservative party. However, I did vote for Tony Blair the first time and look how that turned out. So now I take them as they come, and don’t get too hung up on one party.
I voted for the united Kingdom to remain in the European Union in June 2016. Why?
Well several reasons.
Firstly, I have lived and worked in a few countries on the mainland, and it was very easy and convenient for me to do so. I also appreciate having the option to move my residency around Europe without restriction.
Secondly, I was not sure it was the correct decision to withdrawal economically. I am no expert, but I decided to err on the side of caution.
The Surinder Singh Application
I explained my situation to Jacob Rees-Mogg and he was very interested to help.
A lot of people jump to conclusions about Mr Rees-Mogg, and make general assumptions about his ideology.
Whenever I tell someone I went to see Jacob Rees-Mogg about an immigration issue, they shudder and give me their sympathies.
The truth is not quite so simple. Mr Rees-Mogg is not anti-immigration, despite some of the dubious company he keeps. As a lifelong Eurosceptic and recent champion of Brexit, he only wants a fairer immigration system for all.
We discussed in some detail the unfairness of the current system.
How we as a country are required to accept the non-EU spouses of fellow EU citizens without a visa. Yet in my situation not only were we required to obtain a visa for my wife, the mother of a British citizen. But that visa was turned down twice without a compelling reason.
For example. A German citizen with a Colombian wife can bring her to the UK to live without issue, as EU free movement rules override domestic legislation. But as a British citizen I cannot bring my Colombian wife to the UK because of the visa controls imposed on such situations. Utter madness.
This route is known as the Surinder Singh route, after an Indian citizen who used his status as a resident in another EU country to remain in the UK. In fact British citizens are moving out of the UK to other EU countries to use the Surinder Singh route themselves. With Brexit looming, I would assume this method would become defunct eventually.
Many of my fellow Brits will say this is completely unfair, and I should have the same rights to bring my non-EU spouse to the UK as other EU citizens.
Others will say as a UK citizen I should have greater rights than other EU citizens in my own country.
And some may have the opinion that no non-EU spouses should be allowed to visit the UK (harsh but true)
I have no problem with other peoples opinions. I may not agree with them, but its a free thinking country. The current system is completely unfair and discriminatory against UK citizens. I doubt many UK citizens will take the side of the current system (but you never know these days).
Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg is also of the opinion that we need a fairer immigration system in the UK. On this matter I fully agree with him.
Family of a settled person’ visa
Jacob Rees-Mogg informed me that my case was becoming increasingly common, and he had encountered this issue many times before.
His suggested course of action was to apply for a ‘Family of a settled person’ visa’. This visa allows for a UK citizens non-EU spouse to live in the UK for 2-years and 6-months before it needs to be renewed.
Apparently, this visa is more likely to be approved if you fulfill the requirements.
The main stipulation required to bring your non-EU spouse to the UK is the minimum income requirement
|Family Member||Income Before Tax|
|Just your spouse or partner||£18,600|
|Your spouse or partner & one child||£22,400|
|Each additional child||£2,400|
UK citizens employed in the UK must be able to provide evidence the role is a permanent staff position. They are also required to provide 6-months of payslips/bank statements to show they have been working there for a minimum of 6-months (the self-employed need to provide 12-months of statements).
I dont really have a problem with this stipulation per-se. If it was put into place to prevent immigrants becoming a burden on the state, then it seems quite a low figure to be honest.
What I do have an issue with is the 6-months you are required to work in that job before you can apply. With the average UK job hunter taking over 10-weeks to apply for, and secure a new job, plus the visa application and processing time. In my position, it would take nearly a year of being separated from my family and young son to achieve this goal.
I imagine 6-months in the role is to prevent applicants creating fictitious jobs to obtain a visa.
Other requirements for a ‘Family of a settled person’ visa include –
- £200 a year NHS surcharge
- Proof of a Genuine Relationship
- Proof you Can Support your Family Members
NHS cover for £16 a month seems very reasonable. You can prove you are in a genuine relationship by showing shared ownership of property or savings, having children together, or proof of a prolonged period spent living together.
You can use your income threshold to prove you can support your family, but you will also need suitable accommodation. If you dont have a regular salaried position, you can use savings, self-employed, or business income in combination to satisfy the financial requirements.
To bring my wife to the UK for a two week holiday; or to visit our sons grandparents for Christmas. I need to leave them for one year. Great! The system is making permanent residents out of tourists. Does that not defeat the whole reason for these controls?
Maybe that’s the point. To make the system so difficult for the genuine tourists and visitors, “The easy targets”, they can make the immigration statistics look good for the general population. All the time reducing funding for border control agencies who work to prevent actual illegal immigration.
I won’t be applying for a visa for my wife again for the foreseeable future. Ironically my wife doesn’t need a visa for the EU Schengen zone, so we will have to arrange a family reunion in another European country. Crimbo in Lapland? why not!!!
As my son gets older, I can take him to the UK to visit his grandparents alone. We will find a solution.
I would like to say my situation is an exceptional case, but my research proves otherwise. Online I have find hundreds and hundreds of similar cases.
The father of my sister-in-law has married a woman from Malaysia and is have similar issues.
When I returned to Colombia from my meeting with Rees-Mogg, I met a young man from London who had a daughter with a Colombian woman. Their daughter was a few months younger than my son, and the visit visa application for the very same Christmas for which we had applied was also rejected. It was an eerily similar case. The couples parents were paying their own visit to their local MP in London.
For sure something needs to be done about this immigration situation. But with the political turmoil in the UK at present, I imagine its not a priority.
Ironically, it could be the Brexit which I voted to prevent, that could help our situation. With a reduction in EU visitors, non-EU visa rules maybe relaxed. But that’s just pure speculation on my part, and its now just a waiting game to see how the situation develops.
I dont blame the immigrants coming to the UK for my problems. The blame lies squarely at the door of Theresa Mays government, and her epic mismanagement as home secretary and now as prime minister. She wants to prevent the ship sinking by throwing the crew overboard; shutting the barn door after the horse as bolted; throwing baby out with the bath water…I am sure one of those proverbs must apply, but I am to weary to figure it out.
Maggie Thatcher may have snatched the milk from toddlers, but Theresa May has snatched Christmas. She shall now be known as Theresa ‘The Grinch’ May.
Wish us luck. And spare a thought for all the families separated this Christmas.