Hemsby couple fighting to stay together fear Home Office battle might be lost
08:45 11 July 2014
A woman fighting to stay with her British husband fears she is losing the battle after she was fired from her job as a carer.
Arlene and Stephen Watty, of Hemsby, have been trapped in an immigration battle for more than two years after Mrs Watty, who is from the Philippines, had her application to stay in the UK after their wedding turned down.
At the time, the Home Office said Mr Watty did not earn enough money, adding there was no reason why they could not live together in the Philippines.
The couple last year lost their appeal and are appealing a second time.
But, while they wait for the Home Office to decide their fate, 45-year-old Mrs Watty has lost her job because of the uncertainty surrounding her legal case to stay in the country.
Tonight, BBC Newsnight will feature the Wattys in a programme looking at an immigration rule which stops couples living together in the UK if the British spouse earns less than £18,600 a year.
Mr Watty was unemployed when his wife first applied for leave to remain in November 2012, but he now runs a fencing business.
The Home Office rule which means only Brits earning £18,600 – more than the minimum wage – can bring loved ones to the UK is currently subject to a court of appeal hearing.
A High Court judge has already ruled the income requirement an “unjustified and disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship” and a decision on whether it is lifted is due to be heard in London at 10am today.
The couple hope the judgment and television exposure will make more people aware of what is happening to hundreds of others like them.
“When we talk to people about what we’ve been through, they just can’t believe it,” said Mr Watty.
“They can’t believe there are some people who are allowed to come to the country and claim benefits and people like Arlene, people who work hard and contribute to their community, being turned away.”
“I’m crying inside,” said Mrs Watty. “It’s just so difficult, so frustrating.
The Home Office said it considered each application on its individual merits and that Mrs Watty was free to return to the Philippines and submit a fresh application under the spousal visa immigration rules – a process the couple feared would take years.
“I do not want to be ripped apart from my husband, from my home,” added Mrs Watty.
Newsnight is due to be aired on BBC Two at 10.30pm tonight.