Author - Chris Martin

Update #1: Partner Visa Joint Sponsorship Petition

Joint Sponsorship Update

Last month we started a petition to introduce joint sponsorship to the UK. If you missed it, you can read the original post here and sign the petition here. After our first month, we’ve nearly gained our first 500 signatures. That may still be some way off the 10,000 required for the government to respond – but it’s a great start. We’re eternally grateful to everyone who has supported this cause and signed so far.

Lizzie’s Story

We wanted to write this quick update to let you know what’s been going on, and how the petition has grown over the last few weeks. The first development we wanted to share is the story of Lizzie Swift. Lizzie contacted us regarding her partner’s visa, but unfortunately we had to break the news that she wasn’t able to meet the current financial requirement and could not apply. We shared our petition with her also.

Although it offers little consolation, Lizzie shared her story and the petition with the local Stockport paper On the Spot. Lizzie’s story has since been published in the online publication, and can be read here. It’s stories like these that remind us why we set up this petition in the first place. While Chelsea and I were fortunate enough to meet the financial requirement – there are a staggering amount of couples who do not. But looking beyond just numbers, there’s a story behind every couple, and only one rule keeping them apart.

Canvasing for Government Support

The second piece of news we want to share is our effort to gain government support for the petition. We have reached out to a number of MPs who we believe might be able to help us in our case – including our local representative David Morris.

We emailed David, the current MP for Morecambe & Lunesdale, for advice on how to proceed and whether there were any routes that we had not explored. David’s response confirmed some of our fears – that it was unlikely for the current government to approve such a proposal. However, he was also kind enough to forward to forward our email to fellow MP James Brokenshire, Minister of State at the Home Office. Though James has yet to send a reply, we are always hopeful of positive news.

If you want to support the petition for Joint Sponsorship, we would encourage you to email your local MP too. The more noise we can make, the more chance we have of getting noticed and making a real, positive change to the system. Find the contact details for your local MP using this Parliamentary search engine.

Full Email Conversation(And Template)

For those who are interested, the full transcript of our email to, and reply from, David Morris can be found below. Please feel free to adapt this email to send to your local MP too!

Our Email to David Morris

Hi David,

I wanted to write to you about the topic of immigration, and ask for any advice or support you might be able to offer in taking what I think is a huge inequality in the immigration system to government. My wife is a US citizen and we have been lucky enough to successfully apply for a spouse visa and close the distance between us.

Throughout the process and afterwards, we’ve run a small site (Love My Brit) to document our experience and help others with their visas. What came to light in particular was the financial requirement of £18,600 and how this must be earnt by the sponsor (UK partner) alone for any family partner visas.

For a lot of people who came to our site – we had to tell them if their sponsor couldn’t earn it, they couldn’t live together in the UK. It even affected us, as I had to find full time employment during my final year university to work towards meeting it.

We’ve since started a petition to introduce joint sponsorship, that would allow third parties (friends/family members) who are more financially stable to support foreign spouses in their application. We believe this would give younger & less financially stables couples a fair option to be together, without imposing any risk on taxpayers.

There has been a lot of news around the visa financial requirement recently, though little talk of any practical changes that would support the huge amount of couples we talk to who cannot be together because of it.

We’ve spoken to a few journalists on the issue, who are interested in revisiting the story but are hesitant to until anything is bought up/ discussed in parliament.

I apologise for the long email – I’m sure you receive so many of these! But any advice, guidance or help you could offer on taking this to government would be appreciated by us and so many other young couples.

David’s Reply

Dear Christopher and Chelsea,

Thank you for your email which I read with interest.  I am delighted that the Visa process for yourselves personally has been completed successfully.  I also imagine that the work you do to advise and support others going through the process is of great value to them.

Clearly, as you are already aware, the proposal you are making would require a change in the law, something which can take many years to happen, even if it were to be considered. 

You will know from your own experience, that all recent changes to Immigration legislation have been designed with the intention of tightening entry conditions, so my personal belief would be that it is extremely unlikely the Home Office would consider a change which potentially reverts that position.

That being said, I have forwarded a copy of your email to my colleague, James Brokenshire MP, who is the Minister of State at the Home Office with responsibility for Immigration Policy and Legislation.  I have asked him to consider your proposal and respond with his views and comments on the likelihood of a review to this current requirement.

I hope that this is satisfactory to you, and I will of course be in touch with you again as soon as any response is received.  Please be advised that Ministerial replies can take some time to be returned.

I will be in touch again I due course and send best regards in the meantime.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update, and once again thank you to everyone who has taken the time to sign the petition already. We will continue to update with the latest news and developments as they happen.

-Chris

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