Piece written by Raquel Roberts, a member of RFUK
Is it really Christmas time again? Am I really supposed to be merry? This will be my 3rd Christmas without my husband. Every year I think it won’t happen again, yet here we go, Christmas, again. I think this year is going to be harder than the others for me. This year I know how much it’s going to hurt, again… Not just me though. The heartache spans continents – from UK to Brazil for us. Me, our 2 boys, my husband and my stepdaughter.
And actually, it seems I am to blame – for not earning enough according to the Conservative hostile immigration environment that was created in 2012 and thanks to a “minimum income requirement” that has been allowed to overrule the right to a family life in England. Let that sink in. My family can’t be together because I don’t earn enough.
According to the rules, I must earn £18,600 to sponsor my husband’s visa plus £3,800 to sponsor my stepdaughter’s visa. Total £22.400. Then, I need to find £3000 for their application fees and healthcare surcharges which is £2,735 and a fee for English tests which amounts to a further £300. THEN, there are further costs for uploading documents to the private companies the government farm out their visa processing too which will be nearly £300. Oh, and let’s not forget 2 flights, so add another £2000.
So to reunite my boys with their dad and stepsister it will cost me just shy of £6,500 – and that’s before I’ve even got an immigration advisor on board because the rules and application process are so complex that even professional immigration experts scratch their heads going through it! What chance do I, or anyone else for that matter, have??!
Realistically I’m looking at £8000….and that’s just for two and a half years!!
The numbers make my head so dizzy. And what makes it more galling is that the government use the excuse that their rules protect the benefits system – but the reality is anyone on a visa cannot get access to benefits! It’s called No Recourse to Public Funds or NRPF and means welfare benefits are not available to migrants on a route to settlement.
Before I give myself a hard time about not earning enough, is that a fair thing to do? Or would I just be lining myself up for a self-induced depression? And who would that help? So, rather than wallow in self-pity I force myself to look around me. Who is actually earning enough with the current state of affairs and cost of living crisis? How much would actually be enough for a family of 5 in the current climate? How much would let me save the next £6000 odd due to the Home Office for visa renewals in 2.5years time? I just want to cry.
But, like so many other mums like me, I soldier on – because I have no choice. We’ve been branded by a hideous rhetoric that’s been perpetuated by the government and the media – intent on casting immigrants in a damning light. The cost to our family life means nothing to them. The cost to my children means even less.
So, where do we go from here? I have one job at the moment and looking for a second to try and get close to the minimum income requirement – and, now, I have to raise our children alone. So, in reality they have lost both parents for now.
My husband, their dad, could be here working or looking after them but he is not allowed. And yet when I speak to anyone about this they are stunned that as my husband and a father he cannot be here. We crack on as best we can and make the most of the life and health we have – but there is a gaping hole that can only be replaced by one person. The impact on our boys has been immense – indescribable to be honest. But they have managed to get into modelling and, heartbreakingly, they want to save the money they get from it to help bring daddy home. My heart hurts for them every day and knowing they want to do this is for our family, whilst incredible, it should never have to be this way. The boys are unaware that they have enough money saved for 1 return flight. Yes, only 1 at the moment. So, do we have Daddy over as a Christmas present, just for a holiday?
A daddy is for life, not just for Christmas and as much as I want and need to hold him tight and share the festive joy together and as much as our boys want their Daddy to be present, what kind of present is then abruptly taken away? And what mental health “presents” would I be left with after he goes? The thought of that makes my head nauseous.
This year, we will once again share the special day over the internet – with no presents being unwrapped together by a tree and no loving hugs with daddy. We will all spend one more year apart but we will make it as happy as it can be – with laughter, lots of love and creating some happier memories – because we have to. The festive season is a time for families to come together and rejoice in the love that surrounds them and remember what is really important at this time of year – family and loved ones.
If you’d like to donate to those families who are under extra pressure this winter struggling to pay bills, raise £1000’s for visa fees and put presents under the tree for their little ones, please go to https://bit.ly/ChildrensPresentAppeal202
Alternatively, you can help us by writing to your MP to let them know how important families are and how their migration policies need to help bring loved ones back together.