I originally posted this piece on March 28th and then I took it down. I was too angry, it was full of negative energy and the reason for my anger was yet to be resolved, I was afraid. Now that love has triumphed and we’ve won the day, I want to share it again. This time with more love, positivity and hope. It is a story of how despite the challenges society throws at us we all have the ability to Choose Love.
Elephants are incredible travellers. I was once camping under only a mosquito net in a sand river bed in Tanzania, I slept well. I remember waking up at dawn and seeing the sand, less than 1m from my net completely covered by huge elephant tracks. A whole herd must have passed me totally unnoticed in the night. Simply incredible that such huge creatures can move with such stealth and that they didn’t step on me! Elephants can walk up to 48km/30miles at a stretch, crossing borders and whole continents with ease. This fact regularly brings them into conflict with humans and their need for such huge ranges is one of the greatest challenges the species faces. Despite this, sometimes I wish I was an Elephant. To roam that far and free, no money, no papers, what a wonderful thing that would be.
Passing Elephant footprints
Several years ago I, like billions of people around the world met someone who changed my life, I fell in love and he’s now my husband. I also know that there are many people for whom this never happens. I therefore feel blessed that I am surrounded by love and living a life in love. I believe that all this love benefits not only me and my immediate family but also the community around us. People who are full of love, are happier, healthier and more productive.
It just so happens that by a quirk of fate the person I fell in love with was born on the other side of the world to me, grew up speaking a different language, was educated in a different way and has different coloured skin. Do any of these facts change him? Change me? Change our marriage or our love? Of course not. Or so I thought…However, it saddens me to answer that according to UK government and many individuals I have met, yes it makes all the difference in the world and changes everything. I am trying to comprehend, trying to choose love and not hate. Understanding that immigration is complicated, understanding that there are a minority who want to use the system for their own criminal ends, understanding that space is finite….but also just wanting to be allowed to love- in peace.
The British media are perhaps the biggest culprits in this. ‘Everyday’ love after all, is dull, supposedly common place, it doesn’t sell. What does sell is evil: underage marriages, visa’s for sale, human trafficking, forced marriage, visa scams, economic migration and the arrogant idea that Britain is the best place on earth to live and we must protect our perfect land from the hordes of desperate-foreigners-willing-to-sell-body-parts to get into our Promised Land of wonders we humbly call home. These ideas supported by UK press are pretty much the common view that people who have not had cause to deal with the UK Home Office hold and I admit it was a topic that until we announced our engagement I too was woefully ignorant of and was likely to not pay too much attention to.
I was stunned that when people found out that my fiancé was not from the UK, not even European but actually from Colombia, even if I had only just met them they felt entitled to say to me: ‘Oh but why are you marrying him?’… ‘Do you love him?’… (In a knowing way) ‘ahhhh of course for the visa, Great! Well of course after you’ve done all the papers you won’t need to carry on seeing each other often!’….’but why? are you pregnant?’ …’I know what Latin men are like are you sure?’ and perhaps most shockingly ‘how interesting, is he paying you?’ I have been asked all of these questions several times, by people of many nationalities including British people and by other Colombians. It makes my blood boil. Imagine a couple who were both born in Britain, both from White families and graduates from a redbrick University announcing their engagement. Does anyone honestly think that they would be subjected to these questions and statements? Would anyone even think to ask them? Most certainly not. Over-ridding all of this was the assumption by the British people I know that as soon as we got married, we would be legally seen as exactly the same as any other couple, to an extent I even thought this too. How wrong I was.
We got married because we love each other and wanted to celebrate this amazing fact with the world. To publically and spiritually promise to embark on the amazing journey of life together. We discussed where we wanted to live. Colombia is an amazing place and I would love to live there, it’d be great for my Spanish and I would like to spend more time with the incredible and unusual women who raised my husband. However, my family are in the UK and at the time we both had jobs here, so we decided on the UK, at least initially.
This is the marriage process people assume we went through (how ‘British’ couples marry):1. Announce Engagement CONGRATULATIONS! – 2.book ceremony 3. Pay for wedding venue/ general wedding 4. Sign on the dotted line 5. Welcome to happily-ever-after!
This is what we had to do: 1. Announce Engagement CONGRATULATIONS!
2. Ask permission to get married cost: £1000
3. Find a venue willing to marry mixed national couples, pay for wedding
4. Sign on the line…
5. Submit marriage application to home office: Include photos and detailed personal history of our relationship Inc.: health, bank details, family history, cannot leave country (in fact even town) for 3 months then and you must be available for interview at any time….They also have the right to interview any/all of your family too. The home office can DISALLOW your marriage at ANYTIME during this period.
Just some of our paperwork…
6. If approved (luckily we were) you then enter a 2 year probation period during which the home office checks on you, monitors your movements, you cannot leave the UK for longer than 2 months at a time and neither of us is allowed to go on ANY benefits. As is obvious in this blog I am not well, maintaining a job is a challenge. If I was married to someone English I would be eligible for benefits, but as I have chosen LOVE I am not. Our 2 year period has just ended and happily we are more in love than ever.
7. After 2 years if you do not continue in the system and reapply for ANOTHER visa you can be deported anytime. Literally taken off the street and forced on a plane. I would have no rights as his wife to see him if this happened. So we are forced to toe-the-line. We have to now pay £1,377, submit a 37page document again charting our relationship, including photos and health, bank details, family history in both UK and Colombia and again we cannot leave country and we must be available for interview at any time. We have to submit SIX separate letters to prove we have lived together for the last two years and even then they could still refuse and deport my husband. My husband also has to take the ‘Life in the UK test’ another £90, for which he had to buy text books to prepare for about £50. This gem includes such questions (that all UK residents obviously know the answer to) on which date did women get the right to maternity leave in England? And ‘What is the Queens favourite colour?’
Incredibly, wonderfully we have just got approval. It arrived in the post yesterday and I felt like it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! We now don’t have to think about this for another 10 years! Instead of being angry I now find it amusingly ridiculous that the powers that be call this ‘Unlimited-Leave-to-remain’. um no… Dearest Home Office… unlimited means – no limit – 10 years is a very definite limit. I think you should take an English Language test- I know a great English Teacher if you need me to recommend one as it looks like you need help.
During the next 10 years we will be taxed like all UK citizens (as we have been always) but my husband will be unable to vote. This is criminal – he works SO hard, pays so much tax and yet by being granted the ‘honour’ of living a life of love he is not allowed any say on how his hard-earned tax is spent.
8. After 10 years, if we so wish we can THEN and only then apply for him to have a passport and become a British citizen…………
This is the reality of marrying a foreigner. We are not elephants, we are people and we make something as simple as love insanely hard. This is the real scandal of immigration. That the innocent are treated as criminals. That the media, the BNP, UKIP, Tories and many others in power are allowed to continue to treat humans in this way.
If you have had run-ins with the Home Office I’d love to hear from you!
Phew, feels great to get that out! But even better now that I know my husband won’t be taken from me! After spending a small fortune on achieving something that should be our right here’s hoping the government will now leave us be. Here’s to the next 10 years!
One Love xxxxxxxxxxxxx