To whomever will hear my plea,

My name is Aaron Birt, I am a British Citizen and I’m 21 years of age. I’m studying MEng Computer Science at University College London in London where I’ve been living for the past three years.

During my first year I met a girl called Emma Ricketson, and we started dating. She was an International Student from the USA doing a year abroad at New York University’s London campus. We knew that she had to go back to the USA after her student visa ended but we fell in love and we wanted to make it work. I flew to California and spent the summer with her and we knew we would stay together through the long distance.

Naturally, we kept the relationship going. We paid half of each other’s flights to and from the UK and the USA to ensure we could afford to be together during our school holidays while having a very limited student budget. In early 2017 I asked, at the end of my third year of University, I asked her to be my wife. The next step was to work out Visas so she could live and work, when she graduates in May 2017, in the UK alongside me as I finish the last year of my degree. An acquaintance of mine had already done this from a non-EEA country with an EEA National she met whilst here studying. Knowing little about Immigration laws myself, I naturally asked about the process. She directed me to the UK Residency Card on the UK Government website. According to this, if you’re the family member of an EEA National (such as my soon-to-be wife), and the applicant is from outside the EEA then you’re eligible.  Emma is a citizen of the USA, thus is outside of the EEA, and being my wife will make her a family member of an eligible person (I’m studying and a British Citizen). Fantastic, I thought. This will be the way we can finally be together after two and half years of transatlantic relationship. Seeing as my acquaintance, a non-British EEA-National married to a non-EEA national did it this way, surely Emma and I would have the same rights? Surely?

Before arranging for the Marriage Visitor Visa she would need to get married here, I decided that it’s best to double check with the Home Office if I’m correct in my reading of their website as I’m not a lawyer and it seemed best to get professional clarification on the matter. I called the Croydon Contact Centre as specified on the website for contacting them. I began by explaining the situation with Emma and that my acquaintance had used the UK Residency Card method. Here is when my dream of being with Emma was shattered. According to the Home Office, the UK Residency Card is available only to EEA-Nationals (Non-British) living in the UK to bring non-EEA family members to live with them. I was then told that for this purpose I would require a Spouse Visa. This Visa has a strict £18,600 per year salary requirement, or that amount per annum of the 5-year Visa (£93,000) in savings. Of course, Emma is a newly graduated primary school teacher, and I’m still studying for my Masters degree thus neither of us have that kind of income nor savings.

I was very confused by this, as you recall my acquaintance had managed to secure this method while both being foreign born nationals to the UK. So, I asked the home office representative about it and apparently, non-British EEA-Nationals can apply for a EEA Family Permit to allow their non-EEA family members to join them in the UK. “Surely that can’t be right?” I exclaimed to the woman on the phone. But alas, it was correct.

I, a British Citizen, cannot have my US Citizen wife move to the United Kingdom with me without stringent financial requirements. However, if I were any European nationality besides British, she would be allowed in no problem without any kind of financial requirement. Yes, EEA-Nationals have more rights to immigrate family members to this country than a born-and-bred British Citizen. If I were a non-English speaking immigrant from Estonia, Emma could easily come here to live and work with me. If I were quite literally any European nationality that isn’t British, I would be able to marry her and finally be together after two and a half years of intercontinental relationship with no problems. I am being penalized for being a native of this country when Europeans are given a free pass.

I’m not looking for any payment, I’m not looking for money. I’m looking for justice. This is ridiculous that a citizen of a foreign country has more right to be with their loved ones that a native born resident does. I send this email in hope that we can bring awareness to this gaping hole in the immigration system and maybe see legislative change. I wouldn’t be so despondent if the rules were uniform, but it isn’t. One rule for European Citizens, one (more stringent) rule for UK Citizens doesn’t equate to an equal society, I feel like a second-class citizen in my own home.

Thank you,

Aaron Birt.

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