I just blew in from the Silver City

Well it’s high time I posted an update on our activities for those who don’t know us or follow us on twitter (where we’ve shared probably too much information on the joys and pains of what we’ve been up to). For those lucky enough to be ignorant of the goings on, here is a short list! In the 3 months that we loosely term “Summer” we crammed in:

  • A few trips between North Wales and North East Scotland for job interviews and house hunting (18 hours roundtrip each time)
  • A 10,000 word dissertation
  • A graduation ceremony, complete with stupid hat and not falling off the stage
  • A civil partnership ceremony
  • A trip to visit/meet family in America
  • A 60,000 word thesis
  • The Most Traumatic Visa Application Of All Time, collated over a few months and finalised after 36 hours of no sleep, 24 hours of travelling and serious if-I-don’t-get-some-sleep-soon-I-will-set-out-on-a-murderous-rampage-starting-with-you jetlag
  • Being split by 400 miles when Jenny started her new job while I was still in Wales
  • A(nother) wedding party (long story)
  • The “big names” relatives meeting for the first time
  • A compact tour of North Wales for visiting American family while also packing the house
  • A cut-throat game of moving van tetris
  • Moving house (which was traumatic enough in itself to constitute at least one and a half Ian McEwan novels, the hero being Jenny’s dad who drove us the whole way up before catching a train back to Manchester for a long-haul flight home)

How long does it usually take for a couple to cross all of these things off their to-do-list? We have decided that after all this we are never doing anything again. Or at least not for a while. Probably.

Anyway, you will remember all the madness around the changes to immigration laws and The Evil Government. I haven’t posted ANYTHING about our wedding, about the ceremony, about the visa application or anything related because I’m slightly superstitious and don’t want to jinx us. You might be interested to know that out of all the letters we sent, all the emails, all our family and friends who lobbied politicians with us, I think Jenny had one reply that didn’t address any of the LGBT issues she raised (and we, along with thousands of other people have faced). I have not received one reply from any politician I contacted. The welcome anomaly in this case has been Caroline Lucas, who Jenny tweeted asking her to take up the problems and fight our corner. She replied straight away and asked for more information. Personally, I was so surprised and pleased by her reaction that I almost erected a shrine to her and the Green party in our tranquil back garden, but again, I didn’t want to jinx anything.

There has been no word yet on our visa application. Will we have our life together torn apart on the whim of UKBA and Theresa May’s backward thinking? We shall see.

As for the wedding, I cried all morning and then I cried at our friends at the registry office. We were late for the party because the metro was down so we got the bus and then walked, the party was well underway when we got there. Everything was excellent and I wouldn’t change anything.

A letter to Theresa May – Guest post by Jenny

Hi Theresa,

I thought you’d be interested to hear a personal story relating to your proposed rule changes. I’ve been an international student for three years and am on the cusp of completing and handing in my dissertation. I’m also engaged to be “married” to my English partner, a fellow student who I met while studying and being active in my local students’ union. We’ve been together two years, and I couldn’t have found a better person to spend my life with. Isn’t that great? If it sounds great, keep reading, because I have even more wonderful news for you.
On top of my upcoming civil partnership ceremony at the end of July, I’ve been offered a permanent job at a rate of pay which is a little lower than the new £18,600 per annum you’ll soon expect British nationals to make, but is the perfect job. I couldn’t have designed better and I’m willing to take slightly lower pay for a few years to really get a solid grounding in the professional field I’m seeking to enter. It’s a graduate role that I couldn’t have gotten without my UK university experience under my belt and it’s in something I’m really passionate about. My partner is looking for work now in the city we’ll be moving to together, and luckily enough, she’s secured one interview so far. We’re hoping against hope that she gets it. The situation for us wouldn’t be so urgent, you see, if you hadn’t introduced some of the most illogical and backward rules for family class migrants I could’ve invented in my own worst nightmare.
Your new rules, Theresa, the ones that are supposedly to prevent abuse, and state dependency? They’re hurting us. I’ve always followed the rules. I’ve been a great ambassador for what being an immigrant should mean. I’m likely to make, and continue making, a productive member of British society. You’re ruining a lot of things for us with this sudden and swift change. Let’s start with our late July wedding, which now has the shadow of the UKBA and the 9th of July rule change looming over it. (Oh, by the way, three members of my family are coming from the US to visit and spend lots of nice American dollars as tourists, for our wedding. They’ll be travelling, spending money in shops and supporting local businesses by eating out a lot and paying for our wedding cake and flowers from local companies. They’ve also paid for a substantial portion of the cost of our wedding which, because we have ethics and values, has emphasised local goods and services as much as possible.)
We’ll just miss the deadline for this new rule change by a couple of weeks, meaning that all the hard work I did to ensure that I had an appropriate job before we went on holiday next week is a total waste. All the work I did to ensure that I’d be able to afford to support us both while my UK partner continued her job hunt is now pointless, because you won’t recognise any of it. This is utterly ridiculous and so deeply disheartening that I can’t really express it in words. There is also the fact that my family- both of my parents and my gran- are more than willing and able to help support us as a couple, and me as an individual, while we settle into our new, “married” working life. I’m disgusted that the REAL facts of my situation will not even be taken into account. You’re insisting on looking at only a small percentage of the picture, and discounting valuable information like the fact that I have a permanent job offer and family support.
This is why your policy just makes no sense at all. I mean, by your own justification, it shouldn’t even apply to me! I’m not in an abusive relationship, I won’t need state support (and neither will my partner) and your rules, which threaten my ability to remain here with my future wife, actually threaten to split us up. See, Theresa, I’m American. My home government doesn’t recognise my upcoming civil partnership as valid. I don’t even have the option of bringing my partner with me as a spouse. And she’s a fresh out of the blocks graduate- she won’t be eligible for a US HB visa for quite some time.
I just hope you’ve really thought this through, Theresa. This is utterly heartbreaking and I have to be honest, infuriating. I don’t even expect a proper reply to this letter because I’m sure some office minion will just read it and send a standard form response. That’s a real disappointment because if you understood the high personal and emotional cost of these rules- and I’m sure they’ll cost the UK a lot in lost tax revenue, too- I would like to think you might reconsider. I fall into that lucrative 20-30 year old employed bracket that everyone’s going on about- you know, the 58% of applications that will be refused under your new rules.
I write this in the very vain hope that it might spark a glimmer of compassion and sense in your Government’s approach to immigration.
Thanks for your response.
Jennifer Krase

I’m poor so deport my wife.

We recieved some utterly ridiculous news today. Theresa May (Home Secretary and Equalities Minister*) is proposing changes to immigration law that would mean that unless I earn over £25.7k a year (which is not possible – point of interest: this is higher than the average salary women in the UK earn) Jenny would not be allowed to stay in this country. The fact that she is more highly educated, earns more money and speaks english better than me is irrelevant. As are the facts that she will have lived here for years and will be married to a British citizen. I’m not sure how anyone can justify the rights of my citizenship being dictated by my salary but then again the tories rarely wait for justification.*

These laws only apply to non-EU foreign spouses so unfortunately for anyone coming from a country with difficult visa and/or gay marriage restrictions (like us, thank you DOMA) this could cross-continentally split couples up. It’s interesting that this is against EU law, so Europeans won’t be affected by it. I’ve heard the argument made that the changes are intentionally racist, supported by the changes made to student visas recently, but no one want to go calling names, do they?

This hasn’t happened yet, but it very well could. Jenny could be sent back to a country where I could not follow her and we are not going to be the only bi-national couple faced with this painful reality. UK citizens can help by writing to your MPs, this is a good website to find details of your representatives and here is a great blog post by Emily “How To Stop Theresa May” with a sample letter to send and everything! Here is a petition to the government to stop this ridiculousness, and finally here is an article further explaining what is going on.

I hope you feel these changes are as damaging as I feel they are. With our watered down and unequal partnership, almost prohibitively expensive UK spousal visa, DOMA blocking any hope of Jenny returning home and now this I feel like we take a constant battering from all directions. We shouldn’t still have to fight this obscene force of inequality.

*I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Theresa May voted against gay adoption rights and against repealing Section 28. She later “changed her mind”. Good job no one’s liberties live and die by her opinion!…oh wait…More stats on her voting record

**They have a history of ignoring enormous public demonstrations and enacting policy before their consultations have even finished (see solar subsidies).

Poll

Taking it to the government

Last week I sent this email to our local MP, Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru:

Hi Hywel,

I live in Arfon and have heard only good things about you and the way you engage with the people you represent. I know you have a strong record of supporting equality and want to add my voice to those calling for marriage equality.

As someone who is organising a civil partnership for this summer I can tell you that although the law allows for gay couples’ rights, navigating the system we have to work within is very strange and unwelcoming. Having compared my own experience to the process of arranging a marriage I am left quite dissatisfied with the provisions made for same sex couples.

I would be interested to know where you stand on the subject of ‘gay marriage’.
I’m sure you’re aware that same sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Mexico City, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and six US States.
I believe it is up to community leaders to lead the way on equality and encourage colleagues to do the same.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Today I received this reply:
Thank you for your email about marriage equality.
I think that we agree entirely on the issue of same sex marriage.  The opponents clearly believe in marriage.  It seems peculiar therefore that they wish to deny that status to people of the same sex.  Furthermore, I have found some of the comments of the opponents to be totally repugnant.  The other day I heard one comparing same sex marriage to people wanting to marry their pets!
I have to say though that I do find myself in strange company on this issue, in that for the very first time I will probably be supporting Mr Cameron and a fairly substantial section of his party!
Please feel free to contact me again on this or any other matter.
Best Wishes
Yours sincerely
Hywel Williams
I love it when politicians don’t suck! What a novel feeling being represented by someone who shares my view!