“I would never wish for my worst enemy to be in the situation I am in now. I feel like I am being told that I do not have the right to love whom I choose or to start a family when I want to.”
Laura is a 25-year-old British citizen, living in Scotland and married to Mohamed a 28-year-old Egyptian.
They have been together for four years and married for two, but not been able to live together before now as they were both at university. Mohamed has a degree in Business Management and Laura has an Honours degree in Biomedical Science.
Laura has worked very hard to be able to establish a career in science. Her plan has always been to stay, build a life and develop her career in the UK. She doesn’t rely on benefits nor does she ever wish to.
Since finishing her degree in 2010, Laura has worked full time in a permanent position as a Laboratory Veterinary Scientist on £18,100, which in Scotland is at the upper end of those with similar qualifications/experience.
Her salary is set to increase every year – with further scope for increases due to promotions. The starting wage in science is, in general, quite low in Edinburgh where she resides. Laura has also worked for and made contributions in science for the Scottish Government.
Laura manages to save £600 every month after all outgoings, which she knows would be more than enough to support her spouse were he to be able to live with her in the UK. In addition, were Mohamed given the opportunity to work and contribute to the UK economy, their situation would be very much improved.
Laura is also in the process of paying off her student overdraft to satisfy UKBA, so they don’t frown upon her debt when this young couple applies for a settlement visa.
Laura visits Mohamed every few months, but her current job only allows for 11 consecutive days holiday, meaning they cannot see each other as often as they did before. The length of time and paperwork required or a UK family visit visa previously meant it was easier for Laura to visit Mohamed in Egypt. Mohamed has also visited Laura in the UK (on a family visit visa) for a period of 2 months, not overstaying on the 6 months permitted, in order to honour his own career commitments.
Had they however been aware of the new rules, they would have maximised their time together, and Mohamed would have stayed for 6 months. This couple has tried so hard to do everything by the book – following the guidelines set by UKBA in order to be reunited and live together as husband and wife. They saved all their spare money for a spouse visa, only to come across a hike in the fees. So then, they had to save more. Laura has gone hungry some nights; she doesn’t go out socially, doesn’t shop for new clothes to save money for visas and flights to see her husband, while also paying off student loans.
It is incredibly frustrating that the income requirement is such that even someone with a degree working as a Laboratory Veterinary Scientist is still unable to meet the required income level; it’s shameful that Laura has had to take on a second job, working in Pizza Hut, to reach the £18,600 level.
When the government introduced the English language requirement, Mohamed sat and passed the exam in the UK - with distinction. They were so happy, thinking they had overcome the final hurdle – only to find that the government has now changed the requirements yet again, making it harder to harder to not only deliver on what this government wants, but even to understand what they want.
It is not feasible for Laura to move to Egypt to be with her husband Mohamed. She has a degree and a good job with great prospects here in the UK. Were she to be forced to move to Egypt, everything she has ever worked towards would be taken away. Laura does not speak fluent Arabic, meaning it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find a job, especially in the science field.
Laura wants to start a family in the near future. She has cysts on her ovaries, so fears kids may not be an option were she to wait very long. Concerns of poor education and conditions for her future children, things other British citizens have a right to, also make moving to Egypt undesirable.
Laura would never wish for her worst enemy to be in the situation she is in now; she feels like she is being told that she doesn’t have the right to love who she wants, or to start a family when she wants to. She is being discriminated against for not having a “well enough” paid job and her life has been put on hold because of these changes.
Laura is on anti-depressants to combat her depression and at times, suicidal thoughts as a result of her frustration at finding that each time she thinks they have satisfied the criteria the goal posts have been moved yet again.
How many people will have to sacrifice their life before this government realises the devastating impact of these rules on British families?