Visa Diaries: On Teamwork
by Genevieve Rogis
Over the next few months, I will be applying for an unmarried partner visa in the UK. You can find part one of my Visa Diaries series here.
I am now well into month two of my exile abroad. I’ve been keeping busy, catching up with friends, bonding with my niece over books and horses, visiting grandma’s house, and attending a wedding.So far, I’m succeeding in not allowing time to drag, and convincing myself I’m on a long, pleasant holiday.
But the news still intrudes every now and then. Last week, the Guardian published an article in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the government’s income ruling on partner visas.
It featured a string of couples whose situations echo mine. Reading their stories is disheartening. They highlight just how inhumane the current legislation is.
At the same time, I am reminded of how lucky Andy and I are. We may be apart right now, but we have a plan, and every hope of being successful.
And so, our preparations continue.
This month is all about proving our relationship is genuine. This is an invasive process. The Home Office want photos, stories, letters and text messages, birthday cards and Valentine’s day cards and skype logs and detailed accounts of our lives together.
We have photos. Many, many photos. These photos are supposed to document our relationship and show that it’s not a recent fling. Thankfully, they show clear evidence of the passage of time. I’ve been growing my hair for the last four years, while Andy’s has been receding faster than he would like to admit.
We have personal correspondence. There are some letters that I wrote to Andy when he was away with work. But mostly we’re talking cards. Andy has an unfortunately unsentimental habit of throwing away birthday and Christmas cards, but I’ll take it as a sign of his affection for me that he’s kept a few of mine. I hope the Home Office will agree.
We have text messages. Reams and reams of text messages. I now have the joyous task of trawling through them to find exchanges that are particularly settled-down-coupley. Like discussing dinner plans, or whose turn it is to do housework.
Then there’s travel documents. Bookings for flights and train tickets, hotels and camping grounds.
We also have to write a letter each about our relationship. How we met, and why we want to be together. Essentially, we need to justify our partnership.
And, to add insult to injury, we must explain why we are currently apart to the very authority whose rules have excluded me from the UK.
Finally, we have letters of support from our friends and family. The Home Office won’t just take our word for it. They need to know we’ve convinced everyone else, too. So, over the past month, Andy and I have been badgering close friends and relatives to write sappy letters about what a wonderful couple we are.
One friend waxed poetic on how he accidentally set us up by inviting us both along to a pirate themed fundraiser.
Another wrote some lyrical lines about us all visiting the Harry Potter Studio tour together for her daughter’s first birthday. Andy loves her children even more than I do.
Andy’s mum made it clear that I am part of the family, and that she looks forward to having me back in the country very soon.
And these letters got me thinking. It goes without saying that it’s impossible to get a partner visa on your own. Of course, you need a partner. But other people are important, too, and not just for the application itself.
They provide emotional support. While telling the story of why I’ve had to come to Australia over and over again is exhausting, there is some comfort to be gained from the outrage of friends and family.
My friends in Australia are helping me have a nice time while I’m here. Without them, it would be a much lonelier and more trying time.
My friends in the UK are sending me messages of support, and notes to let me know they are feeling my absence and hoping that I’ll be back soon.
Friends and family provide practical support. My family are giving me a place to live while I’m in Australia, helping me keep my costs down while I’m not earning. This would be infinitely more stressful without their help.
My housemates back in the UK, meanwhile, are putting up with a myriad of inconveniences on my behalf. They are caring for my cat and looking out for my mail while Andy is away with work. They have allowed property inspectors into our shared home. Their names are included in all the documentation proving Andy and I have a suitable place to live.
Without these people around us, our lives would be infinitely more difficult.
With their support, and all of the evidence we have gathered together, our lawyer has said that our application should be pretty straightforward. It doesn’t make me feel any better about our enforced time apart, but it does make me feel more confident about it coming to an end relatively quickly.
Our last hurdle is the income requirement. For now, I am waiting for Andy to gather together the appropriate evidence. If all goes according to plan, in the next few weeks I will be submitting my application.
Then the real waiting game begins.
Gen will be writing a regular column for Expat Focus, detailing her experience of the visa process in the UK. Keep up with her updates here on ExpatFocus.com
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