Newlywed Sophie Brown from Britain told today how the latest Home Office rules demanding English language tests before a marriage visa will be issued could prevent her being reunited with her husband.
Sophie, 23, travelled to Togo in 2006 to teach English where she fell in love with Noel, 25, and accepted his marriage proposal. She speaks to Noel in fluent French and was looking forward to him moving to the UK to be with her.
However, the latest government announcement that husbands and wives moving to the UK have to speak English before they arrive could seriously delay their reunion – especially as her husband can barely afford the current fees and charges for a visa.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said today’s measures from the UK Border Agency would cost £81 million over the next decade – most spent on appeals against unfair decisions.
Sophie came back to the UK to complete her studies – but Noel has even been refused permission to visit for a holiday because the Home Office suspects he may overstay. The couple were assuming he would be granted a marriage visa.
Sophie said: “I am a British citizen and have lived in this country all my life. I met my husband, who is Togolese, when I was on holiday in 2006 and we were married in Togo last year.
“I am 23 years old and due to start my first job next month after finishing my studies. My husband and I believed that this would put us in a position where he would finally be able to come and join me here. Now it looks like this will not be possible, and I do not know when I will see my husband again.
“My husband and I speak to each other in French, though we are both keen that he should learn English. We – obviously wrongly – assumed that the best place for him to do this would be here in the UK.
“English tuition is poor to non-existent in Togo, particularly in rural areas, such as my husband’s place of residence. And I should know – I have worked as a volunteer EFL teacher there.
“The standards in Togolese schools are appalling – but is that my fault or my husband’s fault? Is it our fault that his parents could not afford for him to complete his secondary education?
“We are a young couple. It is difficult enough for us to afford the visa application fees. We cannot afford to pay for my husband to attend expensive English language classes away from his home.
She added: “This is my country and I have lived here all my life. What have my husband and I done to deserve to be treated in this way?”
The UK Border Agency announced today that compulsory English language tests will be introduced for non-European migrants applying to come to the UK to join or marry their settled partner, the UK government announced today.
Hina Majid, policy director of the JCWI, said: Forcing husbands and wives to take language tests before they even arrive in the UK will rip families apart.
“These new rules are likely to hit people from South Asia and Africa where English is not the main language. It may also hit women harder and discriminate most against the poorest.
“These new rules are likely to be challenged in the courts under the Human Rights Act because they are discriminatory and may prevent families enjoying a life together.”