Reuniting families affected by UK spouse visa rules

I remember very clearly when I read of the new rule changes. I remember sitting, with my one year old daughter on my knee, confused and shocked. How would we as a family, me as a mum who only worked part time in a developing country ever be able to meet this new criteria?

I had given birth to my daughter in my country of residence one year previously. It was August 2011. When I researched the possibility of us returning to the UK to birth in a familiar environment Citizen’s advice told me two things. 1) The visit visa would be difficult so I would be looking at giving birth alone, or giving birth in Thailand (also alone since men could not be in the labour room) 2) The settlement visa was an option to us.

My mother in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer while I was pregnant, so we stayed in Thailand. We had savings, professional jobs. I saw no reason why we could not move later.

I hated it. I had a stressful pregnancy, was treated appallingly by my employers, the doctors did nothing to promote modern child birth (separated from my baby for 8 hours at birth for no reason, c section, formula given without consent at first feed). The birth was also expensive, and could have run into tens of thousands of pounds if there were complications.  I had to fight every step of the way to have mine and my daughter’s voice heard.

In time of course the effect of the rules on our family life became clear. Post natal depression unrecognized by the medical profession set in. My second daughter arrived as the country experienced yet another coup- the route to the hospital was blocked by protesters and tanks. It was frightening and uncertain, with a long history of political instability there was talk of civil war. Two children were killed leaving a major shopping mall less than 200 metres from myself and my week old baby. My husband inadvertently drove through a shoot-out outside another shopping mall with our two year old in the car.

I was sinking under the weight of two small children, a dying mother in law, a husband who worked extremely long hours and my own worried mother who could not understand why we could not just come home.

We were also extremely poor. The medical fees, my lack of work, my husband’s local salary could not support a family. We received no statutory maternity pay and no child benefit from our resident country. Our situation was precarious.

In 2014 I went back to full time work in order to slowly build up to meeting the income requirement. My youngest daughter was 3 months old. My youngest has grown up with both her parents working between 50 hours and 100 hours a week, with their living grandparents 10,000 miles from them. As long we live here my children will suffer.

Both free education and healthcare are poor. The education system is one of the worst in the world.

Our youngest daughter has a very obvious, yet thankfully benign heart condition. This was not picked up until she saw a doctor in the UK in 2016. The doctor suspected a heart murmur. Private healthcare is very expensive.  This now costs us thousands every year to monitor and excess health insurance. 

Private education is very expensive and excluding a few International schools that meets UK standards remains extremely poor. Corporal punishment, shaming, outdated teaching methods are widespread. My eldest daughter has suspected dyslexia. She is seven and struggles to read and write. To test her would cost £.1,000. There is no specialist support at her private school.

In this Asian mega city we commute for 4 hours a day just to take the children to school (travelling less than 10km). They are exposed to air pollution that is always listed as unhealthy, and often dangerous to sensitive groups. Occasionally it is dangerous to all.  My youngest daughter wheezes and coughs. They wear a face mask at times in the year so they can breathe. If we leave the city, we lose the magical income which would allow us to return to the UK.

The American government can issue a spousal visa if the applicant can prove poverty. British children are being denied basic rights because their parents can not afford a reasonable education/ healthcare in the resident country.

The British government, in following this policy targets young mums and their children. We are forced to make the impossible decision to a) leave the children’s father for an unspecified period of time b) leave the children and the father for an unspecified period of time c) relinquish our right to live in our home country.