My husband is British. I’m an American. We were married in 2000 at Warwick Registry, and I got my spouse visa on the way to our honeymoon from the British Consulate in Chicago. Back then it was a same day service.
I was the director of our limited company in the UK; we did contract work for the government. I was eventually given permanent right to remain.
In 2005, we sold the company to one of our employees, moved to the US, and set up a new company. During that time, my husband earned his PhD, worked for the university, and did contract for work for federal and state governments, helping people with disabilities.
Over the years my, father-in-law came to visit us twice. As we were on a student’s income and my full time job paid our mortgage, we were unable to afford to visit the UK. We maintained contact via Skype.
Following my husband’s graduation, he flew to the UK to visit his father. Spending time with his father, seeing how much he had declined with age, my husband felt that we needed to be back in the UK near him. We aren’t promised tomorrow. My husband wanted to honor his father by being here for him in his old age.
We sold our home, paid off our debts, and flew our three dogs and ourselves to the UK in August. My husband returned as a citizen and I returned as a visitor with a six-month stamp. We believed, when the time came, we could apply again at the British Consulate in Chicago. We found out this was no longer an option.
My husband rented a small cottage on a farm. We purchased a used car and bought a years’ worth of car insurance. We paid to set up our company: website, sim cards, marketing. My husband began to go to network meetings. Everything was out of pocket since our eight year-old credit rating was too old to qualify for a loan. He also began to put together a not for profit advisory service, free for people with disabilities.
I lived with my husband, but was not allowed to work or volunteer as a visitor. I could not help earn money or spend time developing the company so that we could meet the income requirements. It was very frustrating. I helped our former company to succeed with a lot of hard work and, as a result, we employed five additional British citizens.
My six months as a visitor was nearing the end when we found out shocking information: because my husband is self-employed he would have to submit audited annual accounts to prove income. Although he had earned over £10,000 in six months, he wouldn’t have the required accounts before Spring 2015. We were also informed that the Home Office doesn’t simply look at the total earnings. They look at each month. If there is a month where you earn less than one twelfth of £18,600, they use the smaller amount to tell you that you didn’t meet the monthly-required amount.
Most know that when starting a company, you don’t see an immediate income. It takes hard work to build from scratch – especially in a difficult economy, but my husband was managing.
We met with our MP who, although sympathetic, couldn’t get anywhere with the Home Office.
I was told to return to the US while my husband continued to work to build the company and meet the required income. After being married 15 years, having never asked for a handout, it appeared that the UK didn’t care about our marriage, my husband’s effort, or our family. The whole thing has been emotionally painful.
If I had returned to the States, I wouldn’t be allowed to return to the UK for a year. Americans are only allowed to visit for a maximum of six in every eighteen months. I would be returning to no home, no job, no car, and no money – we had spent our savings to get the company going.
Neither of us has ever signed up for welfare here or in the US. We simply would not. We are hard workers. We would scratch and scrape and find a way to survive without assistance.
I had to be out of the UK by February 14 or overstay and risk being unable to return for 10 years; we began to try to figure out how we could stay together. We are in our 50’s and didn’t want to be separated. We decided to move to Ireland where we could live together and I could work. My husband could also occasionally get over to see his father and older sister.
After we bought our ferry tickets and sent a down payment to the landlord in Ireland, my husband was finally offered lecturing work. He was unwilling to stay in the UK without me and declined the job. I offered to return to the States, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He loves me and doesn’t want us to be apart.
So we are living in Ireland. We hope that someday we can be near Dad. We pray his health holds up through all of this.