Recent changes to the way the UK Border Agency (UKBA) processes UK settlement fiancee, partner and marriage visa applications have affected a lot of families around the world. Because of the rise in the required minimum salary of the sponsoring British Citizens and UK legal permanent residents to £18,600 or £22,400, where there is one child involved, many couples are finding that it is impossible for them to reunite in the UK.
In the recent case of Marc Hanson and Ella Quepet, the new immigration rules seem particularly harsh, as there is no question that they are a genuine couple who actually met and fell in love whilst Ella, a Filipina, was living and working in the UK. She was made redundant by the shipping company for which they both worked and went back to the Philippines. Undeterred, Marc went with her, but on a tourist visa he was unable to work in the Philippines. When they decided to start a family the obvious answer seemed to be that they could arrange a UK family visa for Ella from the Philippines and come back to Britain together.
Unfortunately, although Marc’s parents have gone to the lengths of forming a business for him to work in, and therefore meet the salary requirements, the salary must be paid into sponsor’s bank account for at least six months before a UK settlement partner or marriage visa can be applied for, unless the sponsor previously earned the required level of income for at least six months in the 12 months prior to the application, or is able to show at least £62,500 in savings. Marc’s parents have also pledged their own income of £70,000 to show that the family will not be a drain on the public purse, but third party sponsorship is no longer permitted under the new rules. The UK Border Agency has clamped down on applications insofar as they now need to be filled in absolutely correctly or they will be automatically turned down, and as there is no box for explanation, the family’s hands are tied.
A further complication is that although representations have been made to the Philippines government by the British Consulate in Manila to waive the requirement that the foreign partner be present for ‘guidance sessions’ upon which they insist, because Marc is not currently resident in the Philippines, Ella is being refused an exit visa by her own country (under Filipino Law, permanent migrants departing from the Philippines are required to attend a Government lecture to obtain special clearance or “CFO” approval sticker to leave the country). With the baby boy due at any moment, obviously the couple want to be together and in fact Marc and his parents have travelled to the Philippines to be present at the birth and he would be able to bring the baby back to the UK with him as the child will be eligible for British citizenship through his father. Meanwhile, the attempts to obtain a UK settlement partner visa for Ella are completely stalled.
Marc’s MP has made representation to the UK Border Agency and his case will be considered, but only in order. With many people applying for UK fiancee, partner and marriage visas, the British Consulates and High Commissions are currently experiencing a backlog of applications to be processed. With the recent changes, and especially new “zero tolerance” policy for any mistakes, it makes a lot of sense to make sure that everything is correct before sending in the application. Meanwhile, Marc, Ella and their baby seem destined to spend at least six months apart while he proves his income.