Immigration battle couple ‘banging heads against wall’

A RECENTLY-MARRIED St Andrews University graduate who fears he could be thrown out of the country when he returns from honeymoon this month feels he is “banging his head up against a brick wall” as he continues fighting a radical shake-up of UK immigration rules.

The Courier revealed in December that US national Daniel Whiteley (23), from York, Pennsylvania, could be barred from the UK and forced to live apart from his Scottish wife Jenny (23) when they return from their extended honeymoon in South Africa.

Despite Daniel marrying a Scot and contributing thousands of pounds to the St Andrews economy for more than four years while studying astrophysics and management, the couple have been told Daniel will not be allowed back into the UK because his wife does not earn enough money.

Having graduated from St Andrews last summer, Daniel and Jenny left Scotland to travel and married in Wolseley, South Africa, in October. Daniel’s student visa expired the same month.

Previously, he would have been able to return to Britain as he is married to a UK citizen.

However, following changes to immigration rules, which now insist on a minimum income threshold of £18,600 for a British citizen or settled person to bring a non-European Economic Area spouse or partner to live in the UK, they are not sure if Daniel will be allowed back into Scotland.

Despite both having career ambitions in the St Andrews area, they feel they might have little option but to settle in the US although that in itself is bringing visa challenges which could soon keep the married couple apart for at least a year.

Speaking yesterday from Namibia, Daniel told The Courier they had now delayed their intended return to Glasgow Airport this week to give them more time to speak with immigration officials and correspond with his parents in the US.

“It is still our intention to fly into Scotland and try to speak with someone at immigration,” he said.

“We have encountered the problem that if we start the immigration process to get Jenny into the US and start the process to get me into the UK, we could lose the right to ever apply again ie if we decide to use the UK option and Jenny is then issued with a green card and we don’t use it, she may never apply again.

“It’s vice-versa with the UK option for me if we chose the US.

“We don’t want to close the door so firmly on our options of where to live later on in life, so it seems that, if we don’t manage to chat to someone in immigration in the UK to help us, I will be flying back to the US to start the application for Jenny’s green card, which can take anywhere from five months to a year for the CR-1 visa to be issued.

“This is a spouse visa to allow Jenny to wait for a green card in the US. The green card can take a further two years.

“During the processing time for the CR-1 visa, we can’t live together, she has to remain in the UK and I have to remain in the US. We have been advised by an immigration lawyer that she should not come to the States during that time as it could jeopardise her application.

“I may not be allowed to visit her in the UK due to possibly being classified as an overstay risk by the UK Government.

“We will have to see each other during that time in another country a further drain on our resources to pay for two flights and accommodation to see each other, instead of one flight and free accommodation at the other’s home.”

Daniel said he had been in touch with various MPs but added: “It seems that we are banging our heads up against a brick wall there.

“Eventually one of them may be able to take the issue to parliament but that could take months and for the laws to be possibly changed could take years.”

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “All applications for settling in the UK must meet the requirements of our immigration rules. Every application is considered on its individual circumstances.”