When Norman Robbins met and fell in love with Wilawan Rodpathom on an online dating website, he didn’t realise what obstacles might lay in the path of actually having her join him in the UK on a settlement marriage visa. After a short courtship, Mr Robbins, 60, went to Bangkok to marry Wilawan, who celebrates her fiftieth birthday shortly. Because of new rules laid down by the UK Border Agency which took effect in July of this year, the couple face long wait until Wilawan can join her husband in the UK.
Mr. Robbins has taken the unusual step of contacting David Cameron to share his views on the issue, saying that all he wants is to be able to live with his wife, as any other newly-wed would wish to do. He added, ‘Wilawan is a very well educated woman who speaks and writes in great English. She wouldn’t be coming over here to sponge off the system because she’s a trained occupational therapist. She does medical massages and wants to come over, get a shop, train up some local English girls and start her own business. There are lots of empty shops around here so it wouldn’t take us long to get going. She’d be contributing to the local economy and paying her way.’
Proving that the sponsored person applying for a settlement visa can be supported by their spouse or partner in the UK is a very important part of the immigration process. A UK Border Agency spokesman said, of this case and in general, ‘All applications for settling in the UK must meet the requirements of our immigration rules which apply equally to everyone. Any foreign national looking to settle here must show they can maintain themselves without relying on public funds’.
Changes to the Family Immigration Rules were announced by the government in June 2012. The minimum income requirement to sponsor a foreign husband or wife for a UK settlement visa is £18,600. This increases to £22,400 if there is one dependent child, £24,800 for two children, £27,200 for three (£2,400 for each additional child). However, this requirement only applies to applications made on or after 9 July 2012. Applications made before that date will be considered under the old rules.
For couples such as Mr and Mrs Robbins, this seems very much like regulations for the sake of making their lives difficult. Had they met and married a few months earlier, they would not be in a situation they are in right now. The process of applying for a UK marriage, fiancee or partner visa is quite complex and mistakes, even minor ones, can result in an automatic refusal. The issue is not just of proving that there is a durable relationship between the applicant and their sponsor, but also of financial standing of the sponsoring British Citizen or legal permanent resident. Therefore, it may be wise to hire a professional consultancy to make sure that all issues which are likely to cause problems are addressed from the outset.
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