"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


“What if my 92-year-old grandfather dies, without ever having met my wife, and she can’t even pay her last respects at his funeral?!”

Andrew, a British citizen, has lived in Spain with his South African wife for four years.

They had a great beach ceremony and some members of his family from England attended the celebrations, and all was well.

Despite being British and South African, respectively, they did not encounter any problems with the
Spanish authorities regarding issuing a family member spouse visa, and his wife is now a Spanish

She has had a residence card for 5 years, which clearly states on the back: “Family Member of EEA National”. With this card they are free to travel around the whole of Europe. They can even enter the UK's overseas territory of Gibraltar, where Andrew works. They just can’t enter the UK (the country of which Andrew is a national!) – and where the rest of his family is.

EU law states in 2004/38/EC that any family member with an EU-issued residence card of more than 3 months duration does not require a visa to enter any other EU member state. But the UK does not recognise EU-issued residence cards, it only recognises its own residence cards. As such, in order for his wife to come to the UK with Andrew – even for a two-week visit! – they have to apply for an EEA Family permit.

And thus the red tape, and the farce, begins.

To obtain this family permit, Andrew has to prove that he is working in another EU member state. So if he was unemployed it would be impossible for his wife to visit the UK without applying for a regular visa at a cost of £250 for South African nationals. Fortunately he does work, and as such he is able to provide such documentation.

The EU rules require that there be no prohibitive cost or process for the issue of an EEA Family Permit (indeed, it must be free), yet the UK tries to circumvent this legal requirement by referring to it as a visa.

In the past, they have had to fill out a 12-page form requesting financial details, relationship history, 10- year address history, and so forth. Then they had to make an appointment at the British Consulate in Madrid – 500 miles away – necessitating a 7-hour drive and a hotel stay, i.e. substantial further expense. Given that the next available appointment was 2 months after filling in the visa application online, there was undue delay on top of the expense! Furthermore, they charge €15 to return the passport and documents via DHL and it can take 3 weeks to process an EEA Family Permit, which is referred to as a “decision”.

This might not seem too bad if that was it, and Andrew’s wife was then clear to enter the UK to visit as often as she wished. But no! After all this, she can only enter the UK as long as Andrew is travelling with her, and the permit only lasts for 6 months. After this time, they have to go through the entire laborious process again!

They wanted to visit the UK in August. By the middle of October they still hadn’t received the ‘decision’. They are determined to go for Christmas, especially as many of Andrew’s family have not yet met his wife, including his grandfather, a 92-year-old war veteran who is quite poorly and may not be around for much longer.

And there are nieces and nephews who want to meet their new auntie too.

Andrew is keen to show his wife where he grew up, his home town, his school, his friends. These are all perfectly reasonable expectations and something that he never thought would prove to be so difficult in his own home country, given that they were welcomed with open arms by the administration in Spain.

The UK's policy of forcing them to apply for an EEA Family Permit falls well outside the Free Movement Directives of the EU, so much so that the EU challenged the UK to change these laws back in April or face court action.

However, this UK government seems intent on remaining defiant and is willing to pay millions of pounds in fines. using taxpayers' money, rather than be a law-abiding government that has
respect for its citizens - that is, British voters.


Andrew’s wife was refused entry clearance and an EEA Family Permit. The UKBA’s view was that Andrew and his wife did not provide sufficient documentary evidence that Andrew was working or self-employed in another member state prior to returning to the UK and therefore the regulations do not apply.

In fact, Andrew submitted:
o letter from his employer, on a company letterhead, stating that he had been employed for the
o evidence of last 4 years permanent employment, with a salary over £30,000;
o copy of his work contract;
o payslips from preceding three months.

It is likely the refusal was on the grounds that Andrew works in Gibraltar but lives in Spain – we don’t know.

No explanation was given, and there’s no one to contact to clarify the reason for the refusal.

Having checked with EU Commission, Andrew received confirmation that the UK government has
acted illegally by refusing his wife a family permit.

Will Andrew’s 92-year-old grandfather ever get to meet Andrew’s wife? Will this family be able to gather together?

Ask the British government.

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