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Told You So 6 – The Holy Grail (Or, The UK Visa)

(2009 – my Filipina Princess and I were legally married, living in Cyprus. We both had CY / EU Residence certificates and the next step was to get her a UK visa.)

FP was now completely legal in the EU. Allowed to stay, work, whatever, and even allowed to vote in future local elections. Discrimination against her (and me) was unlawful. Ha! Let’s get to reality.

When I met my FP she was an asylum seeker (no, I have no idea what the grounds were). Asylum seekers in CY are allowed to work in limited areas and FP was working on a poultry farm producing eggs and chickens. 78 hours a week (6 days 12 hours plus 6 hours Sundays). 500 Euros a month, live in. Her accommodation was a shanty shack of plasterboard and corrugated iron on an isolated farm. One room, with a corner partitioned off for a toilet and shower. She shared a double bed with a room-mate, an Eastern European lady who was often out until the wee small hours.

You may not be surprised to learn that when I met and fell in love with FP I wasn’t too happy for this to continue. I suggested that she could work part-time if she wished but, because I wanted us to spend time together, our relationship probably couldn’t develop if she was working those hours. She agreed, her employer couldn’t offer her less hours, and so she moved in with me and gave up work. She looked for more reasonable work, working as a cashier in local supermarkets, etc., but nothing came of this.

Her employer, who also owned an (unlicensed) beach bar was quite a close friend. He often came to our apartment (sometimes at unearthly early hours) with bags of fruit, vegetables, etc. We went to his bar and drank and ate for free. One time he killed one of his pigs and we assisted in the carve-up and came away with a lot of (very) fresh pork. But it was all very strange – if we went to his bar and his wife was there we didn’t talk to her much. (Generalising here) many CY men seem to be like Thai men – they have a mia noi and like to frequent the ‘cabarets’ and wives seem to put up with this as long as it’s not ‘in their face’. FP told me that her previous employer had been caught out on several occasions by his wife, that one of his ‘conquests’ had been a Filipina and that she had to keep a low profile because CY wife (a big lady) thought that FP was a friend of the ‘conquest’. Thinking back, I’m not sure. FP and this guy were quite close and while I don’t know their history I can never quite trust my FP… (rightly or wrongly)

Onwards – our next step was to apply for a UK visa for FP. I wanted to go to UK because I was now a grandfather (far too young, I thought!) and FP and I discussed this at length. CY was getting expensive for an ex-pat and the employment etc. situation, whilst far from ideal, was fairer and more open than CY. Even minimum wage jobs in the UK paid twice what CY employers paid.

I researched the regulations on the net (try UKBA). My friend (the one with the wife who was a ‘widow’ went down the route of a UK Settlement Visa. The fee now, I understand, is about 1,000 Euros. The visa is valid for 2 years and she can spend about 90 days in that two years outside of the UK. Complications (quite apart from the ‘widow’ bit) because for tax reasons he can only spend about 90 days in two years in the UK. He looks for ports of entry / exit where passports aren’t stamped. I couldn’t live like that…

I explained to FP fairly early on that if we applied for a UK visa it had to be ‘kosher’, in other words genuine and up-front. The reasons for this were not only my long-held belief that ‘truthful is (generally) best’ but also that anybody found giving false information in a UK visa application can be prosecuted and banned from entering the UK for 10 years. (Yes, I know this seems strange for a country with perhaps 1 million illegal immigrants).

Here I will have a moan at the UK Immigration Service. They are crap and I was often ashamed to be a UK citizen having seen how the British High Commission in CY works. I had said to my FP ‘don’t worry, we’ve been dealing with CY Immigration, now we’ll be dealing with BHC and you’ll see the difference’. I had to eat my words.

Our first application was refused because – although we’d followed the internet guidelines and submitted all documents requested – they thought it was a ‘marriage of convenience’. As an aside here, how anyone can think that marriage to a Filipina is ‘convenient’ escapes me! We immediately submitted an appeal, together with a fresh application (the two were identical) which included many photos (this is us getting married, this is us on a day out, this is us in the apartment with the wife’s ornaments, etc.) many receipts (this was for the dried flower display, this was for the Hoover, this was for the shopping including panty shields, why the fxxx would I be buying these things if I wasn’t married to FP?) and many letters from friends (we know these people, they’re married, etc.). And so our second application was accepted, we got the visa, and came out smiling and laughing and celebrating. (How little I knew).

The visa I (she) had applied for was an EEA Family Permit. This gave her right to enter the UK (in fact it was a 6 month multiple entry permit) but more importantly she had / has the right to stay in UK for as long as she wishes and to work. She needs no other documents. (If we were going to stay married, she could apply for a Residence Certificate at no cost which would give her the right to come and go to UK as she pleases. We’re not so she can’t, and if she leaves the UK she’d have to apply for a fresh visa to enter). Her EEA FP cost nothing (compare this to the cost of a settlement visa which is about 1,000 Euro, lasts two years and has all sorts of conditions attached).

The basic conditions for an EEA FP are that I worked in an EEA country (which I did for a couple of months) and want to relocate to another EEA country with my wife. I recommend this route for those who can avail themselves of it (check out UKBA and ignore the bits where they say this doesn’t normally apply to UK citizens).

Wow! It was all looking good, FP has an unlimited UK visa and we were good to go. Go we did, but the ‘good’ bit didn’t work out….

Stickman's thoughts:

Of all the embassies of Western countries in Bangkok, the UK embassy is the one that people seem to moan about the most, so it's no great surprise to hear your experience in Cyprus was similar.