Author - Chris Martin

Weekly Featured Couple: Grace & Tom

Featured Couple: Grace & Tom

This week, we’re featuring Grace & Tom – a long distance couple who are in the final steps of closing the distance between them. Despite the 4,000+ mile distance between California and the UK, Grace and Tom beat the odds, first marrying and now tackling the UK Spouse visa application. Oh, and did we mention they wrote to (and received a response from) The Queen?

We wish both of them the best of luck with their application. Their story is a great one, growing from friends to partners and now taking the plunge to moving across the world to be together. Read their full story, as told by Grace, below.

How Did You Meet?

Tom and I are both YouTube Vloggers. In 2013 I was searching Instagram for other content creators to collaborate with and I found him! We began messaging each other on Facebook and Skype and found that we had so much in common. No matter what we were going on in our lives, graduating highschool, starting university, getting a driver’s license, interviewing for a new job,  we stayed in contact daily and I felt as if my life would not be complete without him.

Grace & Tom Together

Grace & Tom Together

We sent each other letters and Christmas and birthday presents and we dreamed about one day meeting. 2 years later that day finally came, and Tom came to visit me in California. By the end of his week long trip he became my first ever Valentine and my first official boyfriend.

What Is Your Situation Now?

After a years worth of trips between the UK and the US and conquering an incredible number of hardships, I am very happy to say that this past February Tom and I got married! We are currently going through the spouse visa application process which is how we stumbled upon your awesome blog! Unfortunately I will have to leave the UK when I submit my application but I’m hoping this will be the last time we have to be apart.

What Do You Find Difficult About the Distance?

Saying goodbye at the airport is one of the most gut wrenching experiences I’ve ever had to go through, and I can guarantee it never gets any easier. We get so sad the week leading up to it and even when we are together I have dreams about it and wake up crying. Once you get used to seeing your loved one every day, it is absolutely heart breaking to be taken away from them and have to readjust to 8 hour time differences and continue your relationship through a tiny screen.

Some days I’d get so depressed being away from Tom that I’d have trouble getting to work. My parents were worried about me but they understood what I was going through. My mother is originally from Argentina and my father is from the US so they definitely knew long distance wasn’t easy. I have no idea how they survived without Skype and FaceTime!

What is You Advice for Other Long Distance Couples?

Don’t give up hope! Tom and I have been through so much together. We’ve worked our way through difficult jobs and spent money we didn’t have just so we could be together for a couple weeks at a time. So many discouraging things can happen – a flight price might go up a ridiculous amount, your Skype call won’t connect no matter what piece of furniture you stand on top of, you don’t meet the requirements for a specific visa, etc.

Grace & Tom in London

Grace & Tom in London

But if you’re meant to be together, you’ll find a way. I’d also suggest finding a strong support group who can help you through your toughest moments. I cannot emphasize just how important it is to have friends and family who support your relationship and can cheer you up when you’re feeling hopeless and defeated.

What Are Your Plans for the Future?

Now that we are married, we hope to get a Spouse Visa sorted in the next few months. Fingers crossed it all goes well! Once that is out of the way I look forward to spending the rest of my life with my amazing husband in a beautiful new country. I cannot wait until the day when we can finally stop counting down our time together. No more time limits, no more airport goodbyes, no more staying up until 4am just to say good morning! We will finally have the life together we have always dreamed of.

Bonus – the letter Grace & Tom received  after writing to the Queen about their situation. 

Grace's Letter from the Queen

Grace’s Letter from the Queen

To see all of our featured couples click here, or to submit your own story visit our submissions page.

– Chris & Chelsea

American Care Package Unboxing (Vlog #8)

Sometimes there’s no comfort like a home comfort. But when you’re living abroad as an expat, they aren’t always easy to come by. After searching grocery stores, market stalls and the internet – we discovered there was very few American imports in the UK. While most larger supermarkets will have a ‘world food’ aisle with some shelf space dedicated towards the USA, the selection is limited.

Most of the brands aren’t even too popular in the US. Instead these shelves contain a British representation of America. One store simply had a bag of marshmallows with an American flag on it! So, we learned the hard way that finding true imports from across the pond is easier said than done.

Fortunately, we stumbled across one site which has so far proven to be a lifesaver. American Fizz stocks a huge variety of American produce: from candies to skillet meals, condiments to household goods and more. Of course, it isn’t quite the same as being in the US, and the prices are more than you would expect to pay in the states. But, compared to the alternative online stores and the cost of shipping packages direct from family members, American Fizz is more than reasonably priced.

Unboxing Our First American Package

So, of course, we had to order a package! With free shipping on any orders over £50, we packed as much as we could into the basket and chose standard delivery. Three days later, the parcel arrived. Unfortunately two of our items were missing (but were refunded). Despite this, we still had plenty to open. In this unboxing vlog, we show some of our (well, mainly Chelsea’s) favourite items that we’ll be using to cook with and snack on over the next few months.

We hope you enjoyed the video. Do you have a favourite store to buy home comforts from? Have you managed to find a shop near you with an authentic selection? We’re always curious to know your experiences – so share your tips, ideas and favourite foods in the comments below.

-Chris

Our New House Tour (Vlog #7)

Wow – over two years have passed since we posted our last vlog. Originally we shared highlights of our time together in the USA (which you can still watch here if you’re interested). From food truck events to beach trips and even a state fair – there was a lot to show. But as our trips became busier throughout 2015, filled with wedding and visa planning, we weren’t able to post as many vlogs as we would have liked. Until now that is.

It’s been just over a month since we were able to close the distance between us. After a lot of travelling  and temporary accommodation, we’ve finally been able to start building a home together. Because neither of us bought too much to the house with us, we had a fairly blank slate to work with.

This was a great experience for us, moving in together for the first time as it allowed us to fill our home with things that we wanted and reflected our shared interests. Of course, it’s still a work in progress (in fact we have a lot more left to do), but we’re extremely proud of how it is coming together.

The House Tour

In this vlog, Chelsea gives you a tour of the house and how we have put our on unique stamp on it. Originally a barn, the conversion is now a part of a small private community on the outskirts of Lancaster. Though it’s slightly smaller than what we may be used to, it’s the perfect size for us and Apple (the weiner dog).

We hope you enjoyed taking a peek inside our house! We’re always curious about how other long distance couples handle moving in together after closing the distance. Do you start from scratch with furnishings and decor or do you combine your joint possessions? Let us know in the comments below – or even share a video of your new home after closing the distance.

-Chris & Chelsea

Sign Our Petition – Partner Visa Joint Sponsorship

Petition Joint Sponsorship

UPDATE #1: Read updates on our petition dated 18/05/16 here.

The petition to introduce Joint Sponsorship for UK Visas can be found on the official government website – click here to sign. To find out more about why we are petitioning for this, please carry on reading.

Since we started writing about our own UK visa journey almost a year ago, we have met many couples going through a similar process. We have tried, as much as possible, to provide advice and guidance on our blog to those in similar situations. We have also written extensively on the various aspects of the Partner (Fiancé & Spouse) visas, because of how poorly explained the process is on the official government website.

However, despite our best efforts – there is one aspect of the visa requirement we are often unable to help with: The Financial Requirement. According to the official guidance in Appendix FM1.7, there are nine ways to meet the financial requirement, but none of these are easy. The two most common ways of meeting the requirement are through (1) permanent employment and (2) cash savings.

If you’re applying via cash savings, the chances are you won’t meet the £62,500 in instantly accessible assets that you are required to have. And if you opt for the permanent employment route, you need to earn over £18,600 per year. Remember, it’s your UK based sponsoring partner alone that must meet these requirements. Neither you nor friends and family can help.

The terrible and heartbreaking truth that we have to tell many couples is that if you aren’t fortunate enough to be in this position, you will either have to wait until you are, or give up on the dream of living together in the UK. We believe this is wrong. No couple should be denied the right to a life together, because one partner does not earn enough.

In many cases, the applicant earns more than enough to meet the requirement. In other cases, friends and family are willing to provide support. But according to the government, this doesn’t matter. If you’re partner alone does not meet the requirement – tough  luck.

Why Are The Requirements So Strict?

The main argument for why Partner visa financial requirements are so strict is that it prevents applicants from entering the UK and living on benefits – A.K.A taxpayer money. This is, to some extent, a valid concern. No-one wants their tax money being used to support migrants looking for a free ride.

But, in our experience – this is rarely ever the case. The couples we talk to aren’t scroungers looking to game our welfare system. They are hardworking, determined individuals willing to do whatever they can to close the distance between them.

Chelsea and I are even examples of this. When we first met, I was starting my second year of university. Beside my studies, I was working two part time jobs and running my own business to afford trips to the US – though making nowhere near the financial requirement. Chelsea worked at a doggie day care facility and taught training classes to support her trips to the UK. She was making over the requirement financial limit. But because she was the applicant and I was the sponsor, we had to wait not only until I had finished university but had been in a full-time job paying over £18,600 for 6 months before we could even think about applying.

Fortunately, in our case, we were able to put ourselves in a position to apply. But many are not. Data from HMRC in 2013 suggested there were at least 9 million individuals (though more likely around 12 million) in the UK earning less than the 18,600 needed to apply. Out of the approximate 38 million working aged adults in the UK – that’s a staggering 23% that can’t apply to live with their partner if they happen to be outside of the EU.

UK Pre Tax Income

Please note – these figures are estimates. However, they serve to illustrate the magnitude of this issue.

How Would Joint Sponsorship Help?

Joint sponsorship, as it is applied in other countries (notably the USA), allows a second individual to take unlimited financial responsibility for a visa applicant should their main sponsor not be able to support them. This means that if your UK based sponsor does not meet the financial requirement, they could ask a close friend or family member to co-sign the paperwork with them. That second individual would then share the responsibility of meeting the financial requirement and supporting the applicant for the duration of their visa.

A joint sponsorship  system would offer a vital lifeline to couples where the sponsor is unable to meet the financial requirement alone. More importantly to many, there is no additional risk to the UK taxpayer. Previous attempts to lower the financial requirement have been rejected on the basis of additional risk to taxpayers. However, by assigning responsibility to a second individual, who is more financially stable, the risk is transferred to them – rather than the UK working population at large.

Of course, it is still down to the couple to find a friend or family member who is willing to take on this responsibility. There is no guarantee that they will be able to. But it is far better than the alternative. It gives couples who are currently unable to apply a much needed second option. Rather than give up on the idea of building a life together in the UK, these couples would have the chance to – something the current system cruelly takes from many.

How You Can Help!

If joint sponsorship sounds like a good idea to you, then we need your support! We want to bring this to the government’s attention. We want to make it known that there is a way they can create a system which looks out for the interests of visa applicants and taxpayers alike.

We have created a petition, outlining the concept of joint sponsorship for Partner visas and how it would so many families torn apart by an unfair sponsorship system. But we need to get it noticed before any action can be taken. So, if you want to help us change the immigration system and give more couples the chance at a much deserved life together in the UK – please sign the petition here.

At 10,000 signatures the government must respond, and if the petition reaches 100,000 then it will be debated in parliament. Unfortunately, only British citizens and UK residents may sign petitions. So even if this is an issues that directly affects you, you may still be unable to sign.

But don’t worry, you can still help! We need to spread the word. So please: share this post, share our petition, or even write about it yourself. The more people we can get to stop and take notice, the more chance we have at making a real, lasting change.

-Chris

Weekly Featured Couple: Dan & Sam

Weekly Featured Couple: Dan & Sam

This week we were lucky enough to speak to Dan & Sam, a wonderful British & American couple who met online in late 2013 and began dating after meeting each other in person for the first time. Since then, the pair have crossed the Atlantic every 6 months to visit each other – an amazing feat & commitment. Dan & Sam are committed and patient – they know long distance is difficult, but have been doing all that they can to grow together in their relationship.

We wish them the best of luck, and hope that someday soon this wonderful couple will be able to close the distance between them. This is their story:

How Did You Meet?

We met online around November of 2013. I remember we bonded over the films Happy Feet and Titanic. For the first month or so we mainly messaged each other a few days a week and then that quickly progressed to Skyping. Speaking to him became a regular part of my day. He made me laugh so much.

It was interesting navigating through our feelings for one another those next couple of months but by the following summer we knew we were in love. Last April, I made the trip to England where we officially met and began dating.

Dan & Sam at the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan

Dan & Sam at the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan

What is Your Situation Now?

Right now, we alternate visiting each other every five or six months. Dan was here in New York with me this past November and I’ll be going back to England for our anniversary in April. On a normal day, we text and send Snapchats throughout the day. After work, we Skype from anywhere between an hour to five hours depending on the time he has to be up the next day.

The time difference is a killer and I always feel like he doesn’t get enough sleep. If it was the other way around, there’s no way I could stay up until the hours that he does so he really is the best.

Dan & Sam Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Dan & Sam Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge

What do you find difficult about the distance?

Dan: The fact that I can’t come home to her every day.

Sam: Some days just coming home and seeing his face, hearing his voice ­for whatever amount of time­ is enough. Other times, I feel like we barely get a chance to look at each other. And that’s not okay, because I really love his face. Not being able to hold his hand or cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie or even just fight over the last slice of pizza (well, he’d just let me have it) can be disappointing sometimes.

I can’t make him soup when he’s sick. He can’t give me a hug when I’ve had a bad day at work. It’s tough not spending certain moments together. But we have a love that makes us work harder than we’ve ever worked and that allows us to love deeper as well. It pushes us to make the most of our time together.

What is Your Advice for Other Long Distance Couples?

Dan: Make sure it’s something that you’re committed to no matter what.

Sam: It does take a lot of commitment. You’re lucky if you find the type of love people write songs about so you should make this a priority. You will have to readjust how you spend your time in order to find a routine that works for both of you and be sure to stick to it as much as possible.

It’s also important to be able to deal with things when you kind of get out of the groove. Be sure to communicate with your partner when this happens so you can work through it together. Just be patient, have faith in yourselves, and trust that it will all work out. Or if you’re really insanely smart, invent a teleportation device.

Dan & Sam on the Boardwalk at Rockaway Beach

Dan & Sam on the Boardwalk at Rockaway Beach

What Are Your Plans for the Future?

Once I finish school, we will see what is best for us. We’re both willing to make the move but it justdepends on the overall circumstances, mostly job wise. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if we’re in England or America. I just know that we’ll be moving forward in our lives together.

Things may seem crazy now but it’s pretty amazing too. We’re each better because of the other. I just want whatever future allows me to wake up to him by my side every day. Anything else we have to do in order to make that happen is worth it.

For all of our featured couples click here, or to submit your own story visit our submissions page.

– Chris & Chelsea