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OPEN LETTER: EU Immigration Injustice!

To whomever will hear my plea,

My name is Aaron Birt, I am a British Citizen and I’m 21 years of age. I’m studying MEng Computer Science at University College London in London where I’ve been living for the past three years.

During my first year I met a girl called Emma Ricketson, and we started dating. She was an International Student from the USA doing a year abroad at New York University’s London campus. We knew that she had to go back to the USA after her student visa ended but we fell in love and we wanted to make it work. I flew to California and spent the summer with her and we knew we would stay together through the long distance.

Naturally, we kept the relationship going. We paid half of each other’s flights to and from the UK and the USA to ensure we could afford to be together during our school holidays while having a very limited student budget. In early 2017 I asked, at the end of my third year of University, I asked her to be my wife. The next step was to work out Visas so she could live and work, when she graduates in May 2017, in the UK alongside me as I finish the last year of my degree. An acquaintance of mine had already done this from a non-EEA country with an EEA National she met whilst here studying. Knowing little about Immigration laws myself, I naturally asked about the process. She directed me to the UK Residency Card on the UK Government website. According to this, if you’re the family member of an EEA National (such as my soon-to-be wife), and the applicant is from outside the EEA then you’re eligible.  Emma is a citizen of the USA, thus is outside of the EEA, and being my wife will make her a family member of an eligible person (I’m studying and a British Citizen). Fantastic, I thought. This will be the way we can finally be together after two and half years of transatlantic relationship. Seeing as my acquaintance, a non-British EEA-National married to a non-EEA national did it this way, surely Emma and I would have the same rights? Surely?

Before arranging for the Marriage Visitor Visa she would need to get married here, I decided that it’s best to double check with the Home Office if I’m correct in my reading of their website as I’m not a lawyer and it seemed best to get professional clarification on the matter. I called the Croydon Contact Centre as specified on the website for contacting them. I began by explaining the situation with Emma and that my acquaintance had used the UK Residency Card method. Here is when my dream of being with Emma was shattered. According to the Home Office, the UK Residency Card is available only to EEA-Nationals (Non-British) living in the UK to bring non-EEA family members to live with them. I was then told that for this purpose I would require a Spouse Visa. This Visa has a strict £18,600 per year salary requirement, or that amount per annum of the 5-year Visa (£93,000) in savings. Of course, Emma is a newly graduated primary school teacher, and I’m still studying for my Masters degree thus neither of us have that kind of income nor savings.

I was very confused by this, as you recall my acquaintance had managed to secure this method while both being foreign born nationals to the UK. So, I asked the home office representative about it and apparently, non-British EEA-Nationals can apply for a EEA Family Permit to allow their non-EEA family members to join them in the UK. “Surely that can’t be right?” I exclaimed to the woman on the phone. But alas, it was correct.

I, a British Citizen, cannot have my US Citizen wife move to the United Kingdom with me without stringent financial requirements. However, if I were any European nationality besides British, she would be allowed in no problem without any kind of financial requirement. Yes, EEA-Nationals have more rights to immigrate family members to this country than a born-and-bred British Citizen. If I were a non-English speaking immigrant from Estonia, Emma could easily come here to live and work with me. If I were quite literally any European nationality that isn’t British, I would be able to marry her and finally be together after two and a half years of intercontinental relationship with no problems. I am being penalized for being a native of this country when Europeans are given a free pass.

I’m not looking for any payment, I’m not looking for money. I’m looking for justice. This is ridiculous that a citizen of a foreign country has more right to be with their loved ones that a native born resident does. I send this email in hope that we can bring awareness to this gaping hole in the immigration system and maybe see legislative change. I wouldn’t be so despondent if the rules were uniform, but it isn’t. One rule for European Citizens, one (more stringent) rule for UK Citizens doesn’t equate to an equal society, I feel like a second-class citizen in my own home.

Thank you,

Aaron Birt.

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16 Comments on OPEN LETTER: EU Immigration Injustice!

  1. OK here is the situation. The UK has its own immigration law. But it also has separate reciprocal arrangements with the EU. So if you want to bring in an American spouse, she has to go through same system as any other non-EU. The EU thing is a special deal for EU only, and it also works the other way, i.e. you could marry her in Las Vegas then go and take her to live in any other EU country (except the UK) and she could do so as a family member of you, an EU citizen. This is how the reciprocity works. Each individual country has its own conditions around spouse visas, but when the EU wanted to set up this scheme it was way too difficult to harmonise all the individual countries, so they just agreed on this as a compromise.

    In fact what is happening to you is because the UK government is not free to discriminate against EU citizens, but it is free to discriminate against its own citizens! I sympathise with the original purpose of the rules (which were put in place around 6 years ago) which is to stop chain migration from the indian sub-continent where people were bringing in wives who had absolutely no ability to integrate or get work in this country due to language and job skills, and just went straight onto benefits. Hence the language and income or savings tests. This makes sense. But then layered on top of that is these EU rules which appear unfair, but there is a logic to it.

    I know people in much worse situation than you as they are already married in a third country and have a baby but the wife still can’t get a visa even though baby as a UK passport! What they did was go to Ireland first (they don’t really care much) then there is no border control with UK so they just moved back to UK.

    As your wife is a teacher, then you will be unhappy to know that this then extends to the teacher training system here. If she wants to do a PGCE then at first the student loans company will tell you she cannot get a loan. You will then find that other American wives of e.g. French people CAN get a student loan. But if you appeal they will eventually relent.

    Of course, the glaring hole in this system is that in general it is a one-way flow. Lots of people from the EU want to come to the UK to live and work and study, whereas not that many (except retired) UK people go in the opposite direction. So UK citizens end up disproportionately disadvantaged by this scheme.

    Or go and get a job in an international school in sunny Spain….. problems then all solved!

  2. Unjust UK Spouse Visa Rules // November 17, 2017 at 9:35 am // Reply

    I’m a British national married to an Australian. When I discovered this I was disgusted – it seems there’s one rule for EU nationals, a tougher rule for Brits. It’s completely absurd. There is no logic to it.

    Ironically I also have an EU passport through the birthplace of one of my parents but it cannot be used for my husband’s visa renewal as my British passport takes precedence. The non-EU spouses of EU nationals don’t even have to renew their visas as they are given a five year residence permit, whereas we are subject to a renewal after 2.5 years, at a much greater cost than what they have to pay for the whole five years, and more stringent conditions.

    In addition, they don’t have to pay the NHS surcharge. We have to pay it at a rate or £200 per year. They pay nothing. Why should British people effectively be covering the cost of the non-EU spouses of EU nationals using the NHS? It’s completely unjust and makes no sense. I feel like a second class citizen. My husband thinks it is ridiculous too. I could get around it by renouncing my British citizenship and just having my EU one, but why should I ever have to do that? I was born and brought up here and pay taxes, as does my husband. He has never, ironically, and luckily, even had to go to the doctor since he came to the UK over three years ago.

    I hope that you have made your local MP aware of this. I’ve written to mine (Conservative) and am waiting to hear back.

    Can we please escalate this issue so that it can be made public and be in the national press? It needs to be debated in parliament and this injustice needs to be overturned. Even if we are leaving the EU and immigration law will change, the system needs to be made fair, for everyone, not least for British nationals, the citizens of this country.

  3. Typical cack-handed Whitehall failure to ensure Britons are always given preferential treatment in their own country. And an American fiancee – a citizen of our closest ally – should also be given preferential treatment, as should all our friends from the Anglosphere.
    Always this PC attitude of our bureaucrats of giving anyone from anywhere in the world the same or better treatment as our own people. Family and friends don’t do that; they look after their own and feel no qualms about it either; and so should we as a country. Perhaps we’d have far fewer enemies and traitors within if we’d been a bit more discriminating over the years.

    Best of luck to both of you for happiness in the future. Keep on finding ways round the idiotic officialdom; I hope you can outsmart the dozy penpushers!

  4. Aaron, as you have seen we as native Brits are shat on from a great height if we want to bring a foreign wife to the UK whilst the rag and bobtail who wish us harm are welcomed and showered with gifts (benefits),

    It is simply beyond belief and has to change.

  5. You didn’t follow the correct application procedure. If you’d have gotten your fiancee to dress in a black bin bag and wear an exploding vest: she’d have been let straight in, probably given a passport too.

    You’ll win in the end. Good luck!

  6. Antony Nailer // May 4, 2017 at 8:08 pm // Reply

    Aaron, my nephew is a UK national and Christian working in Switzerland. He has fallen in love with a member of staff who is an Iranian born Muslim. After a long courtship they decided to get married. No chance in Switzerland because of the two different faiths. No chance in the UK either for some reason I can’t remember now.

    Apparently you can get married in Denmark after giving 2 weeks notice and paying a fee of £20. So that is what they are doing and then they are coming to the UK to have Christian blessing with other members of her family all on holiday rights. Then then are going somewhere else in Europe to get a Muslim blessing.

    You know, you just couldn’t make this stuff up. The prats sat behind desks around the World just play havoc with peoples lives, I’m sure just as an exercise in power and to justify an income.

    Like other respondants I suggest your fiance needs to get an offer of a job as a teacher in the UK. Then come here with a work permit. Then she has the income to allow her to live and work here and to support you during the final stages of your Masters. It doesn’t seem that difficult to me, just be a little bit patient and do it that way rather than trying at this stage to change the asylum, immigration and residency rules.

    After a reasonable spell here working as a teacher she could apply for UK Nationality as well. Then it is all sorted.

    • Hey. Thank you for your suggestion!
      We can easily get married in the UK, the issue is that post-marriage they will kick her out and then she requires those financial requirements. The UK Government recently raised the minimum income for the work permit (Tier 2) Visa from £18,600, which was a very do-able salary for a teacher, to £30,000. The majority of teachers in the UK get paid £23,000 to £28,000. So she’ll high hitting to find a school that will A) Pay her £30,000 for being a teacher, B) Have the ability to Sponsor Visas, C) Be willing to pay a further £1500 for sponsorship as well as pay someone to process all of the legal paperwork.

      The issue isn’t that she could just brute force try and get a job over the next 2 years, the issue is that this applies to nobody else in the European Union. If I were French/Spanish/Hungarian/Lithuanian and married an American she could move over here for £65 total, and those other financial requirements don’t apply.

  7. Malcolm Marchesi // May 4, 2017 at 6:23 pm // Reply

    What a bloody disgrace ! Outrageous !
    I wonder what Clegg and Farron and Soubrey and all the other euro-fanatics would say to justify this situation !

  8. Answer from EU Commission. UK must treat non UK persons under EU immigration rules. If a UK citizen makes an application (Spouse, fiancee or dependent) then UK immigration rules apply.

    Been there, done that. Second class citizen in our own country.

    • Forgot to say. These are UK rules that penalise us, not EU. The UK could harmonise the rules if it chose to. The EU want to retain these rights after Brexit. UKIP should champion UK citizen rights to be greater than others, not less.

      • Correct, the problem is a matter of jurisdictions. EEA-Nationals fall under EU Immigration laws, and the British National fall under British Immigration laws. The whole point of my letter is to highlight the discrepancy, where in effect British Immigration Laws penalize British Citizens while EU Immigration Laws allow EEA-Nationals and their non-EEA spouse free passes.

  9. Aaron, can I just ask you has your fiance got a promise of a job in this country yet?

    • Not yet, no.
      They recently raised the minimum salary for a Tier 2 (Working) Visa from £18,600 to £30,000 per annum, so that is out of the question for a newly qualified teacher.
      The issue here is that she needs a Spouse Visa before she can even start looking for a job, and we can’t get a Spouse Visa because of restrictions set by the UK Government on UK Citizens.
      None of the above applies to the Non-EEA Spouse of an EEA National.

  10. Not the first time I have heard of such injustice. My heart goes out to you!

  11. Aaron, I too am sorry for your plight. The bad news seems to be that you, along with the rest of us, are second class citizens, in the eyes of the EU.
    Hopefully Theresa May will deliver for you, when we leave. Just a suggestion, try emailing John Redwood MP. He is a star MP and may well help you – it’s certainly worth a try. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a constituent. Very best of luck.

  12. Aaron,

    This is so obviously unfair, my heart goes out to you and your American fiance. Your situation shows how ridiculous this whole biased system is and my only consolation is that it will all change once we leave the EU, but that is not much help to you at the moment I know.

    However, why wait until we leave why can we not just change the rules now and do things that suit our citizens and not those that have just arrived from EU countries. I get so exasperated as to who is actually in charge in this country and why we have to adhere to those outside at the detriment of our own people such as you.

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