Drowning in bureaucracy

I am a British Citizen living and working in Spain since 2016. My husband is a Spanish resident with Moroccan Nationality.

My husband and I met in Barcelona in 2016, moved in together shortly afterwards and married here in 2018. Prior to Brexit, my husband and I had travelled on a number of occasions back to the UK to visit family using his Article 10 card, alongside his passport. On 31st December 2020, the GOV website updated its page to state that the Article 10 card would no longer be accepted for use to travel alongside British family members to the UK.

 Taking effect, the very next day, leaving us with no warning time to apply for a family permit while we were actually in the UK over Christmas!

In January 2021, my husband applied for EUSS Family Permit to travel with me back to UK on Surinder Singh grounds (he has Spanish residency Article 10 card). Our family situation had changed drastically and we knew that it was important for us to relocate back to the UK, close to family, at this time.

On August 11th 2021 (more than 6 months after applying) my husband received a refusal letter.

Prior to receiving this refusal, my local MP in the UK had contacted the Home Office on our behalf and our case had been expedited on ‘compassionate grounds’ as I am currently almost 7 months pregnant and desperate to get home to give birth to our child.

My MP also informed the Home Office how my Dad, in the UK, had recently suffered a severe brain injury and is in rehabilitation care at the moment. His health workers have written letters to us saying that he would benefit from having face to face contact with me, his daughter, stating that they believe this would really help with his progression.

We also used the UKVI paid email service to explain the urgency of our situation and we’re assured that our case had been ‘escalated’. Two days later we then received a refusal letter via email.

My husband’s visa application has been refused on two points.

The first point of refusal states that I (the British Citizen exercising treaty rights in the EU) should have provided more evidence such as wage slips to prove I have been working here. I did provide a signed letter from my current employer dating when I started and my job role as I was unaware that I should also provide wage slips to prove this. I do actually have my contracts and wage slips dating back to when I first moved here in 2016. I have always earned money here and been in a contract but I didn’t realise it would be appropriate to upload all of these as evidence.

I remember reading through the EUSS Permit eligibility and understanding that it was not important how much money I was earning here. I assumed that the letter from her employer was enough to prove that I was in paid work as the Head of EYFS in a Primary School, here in Spain.

I realise now that it would have made sense to send supporting documents, but it did not specify this on the guidance notes for the Family Permit.

In September 2020 I changed over from my original Spanish NIE Residency document to my TIE card.

This was required by the Spanish Government due to BREXIT. In order to receive this card, British

Citizens were required to submit lots of documents to prove that they were in paid work, paying taxes, had access to Spanish healthcare etc. I assumed that providing a copy of this card would show that I was an active member of society here in Spain.

The second point for refusal was that we did not provide enough information to show that my husband and I have been living together here in Spain. The devastating truth is that we have evidence to prove we have lived together dating back to February 2017 but failed to upload it as we were not aware that we needed to provide so many different pieces of evidence. This is because it clearly stated on the GOV website that to qualify, the relationship should have started ‘before 31 Dec 2020’, this led me to believe that the evidence I provided was enough to satisfy the rule as my husband and I married in April 2018.

When we applied for the permit, it was not clear exactly how many pieces of evidence were required to prove ‘genuine residency’ here. The evidence that we used were ‘documents from an official organization’ which was mentioned in the application process as sound evidence for this case. The requirement clearly stated ‘If the family member is a member of the British Citizens’ household, provide evidence that they are living with them in their house. For example, this could be social service letters, documents from an official organization, mortgage or tenancy agreements, bank statements or utility bills addressed to them at this address’. It did not mention that each of these were required as it uses the word ‘or’ I assumed the documents that I provided would be substantial enough.

We did provide letters from government officials to prove our shared residence from 2018 to now, but it seems this was not substantial enough. It seems completely unfair to have not been given the opportunity to provide more documentation before being refused, especially considering that this is an urgent case.

As you are aware, our family has been through a terrible recent trauma with my Father’s brain injury and we have been desperate to move back to the UK to be near family since then, especially as I am now heavily pregnant. This has caused me a lot of stress.

If the Home Office could have shown a little compassion to our family and provided us with the opportunity to present the evidence that was clearly needed by the Visa Clearance Officer, we could have provided this very quickly.

Since starting this application we have become part of a broader community of British people struggling with the effects of rule changes and people have been extremely shocked with our story considering we were given no opportunity to provide more evidence to support our case. This is literally tearing our family apart and is currently having extremely detrimental effects on my father’s health and on my own mental health.

I am begging the government to provide us with the opportunity to present the evidence needed for our case to be accepted before it is too late for us to travel back to the UK together for the birth of our baby.

I have sent Priti Patel an email and attached the refusal letter, letters from my father’s hospital, my

pregnancy scans, a letter from our solicitor in the UK proving that we have a place to live on return home, our marriage certificate and family book.

I am also able to provide proof of joint residency dating from Feb 2017 to now in the form of utility bills, letters from government organisations, doctors’ letters etc. I can provide my wage slips and work life certificate to account for my earnings here in Spain as a Primary school teacher dating back to September 2016. As you can see, we have all of the necessary information to prove our lives together here in Spain but were not given the opportunity to show more evidence that was clearly needed by the clearance officer.

When I qualified as a Primary School Teacher at Brighton University, we were encouraged by passionate University professors and educational figures to further our knowledge and skills by exploring International Education. We were encouraged to go on placements abroad and learn about wider pedagogies, ethos and methods in relation to Education. Since living abroad I have been given the opportunity to train in Montessori and transformed Early Years Units using the EYFS and National Curriculum.

I always thought that when it was time for me to move back home, the UK would be happy to welcome me back especially with my newly acquired passion, skills and specialism. Instead, my husband and I have been made to feel that we are not welcome in my country after jumping through hoops and being left with no option but to beg for help.

My husband and I hope that there is some way that you can help us to resolve this issue without having to go to a first-tier appeal tribunal or starting from scratch by applying again which will take such a long time and stop us from returning to be with family for the birth of our child.

Olivia, British, living in Spain

First published August 2021

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