‘It feels like a lead weight has been lifted’ - Norfolk couple win two-year immigration battle to stay in UK

Stephen and Arlene Watty of Hemsby are facing an immigration battle after the Home Office claimed th

Stephen and Arlene Watty of Hemsby are facing an immigration battle after the Home Office claimed they do not earn enough for Arlene to stay in this country. The couple pictured on their wedding day in 2012. - Credit: Archant

A husband and wife who have been 'to hell and back' over an immigration battle have won their fight to stay together in the UK.

Arlene and Stephen Watty have finally won their battle to stay together

Arlene and Stephen Watty have finally won their battle to stay together - Credit: Archant

Arlene and Stephen Watty broke down in tears when they heard their two-year ordeal was finally over and the Home Office had granted Arlene leave to stay in Britain on a spouse visa.

The couple, of Fakes Road, Newport, were next door neighbours when they met in 2010. They fell in love and married two years later. But the honeymoon period did not last long - the Home Office had soon turned down 45-year-old Arlene's application for leave to remain and told her she did not have the right to live here.

She appealed but was turned down again, with officials telling the couple separation would not be 'disproportionate or unjustifiably harsh'.

The judges had ruled Arlene did not qualify to stay because of the controversial 'minimum income' threshold, a Home Office rule which means only Brits earning £18,600 - more than the minimum wage - can bring loved ones to the UK, regardless of whether the person applying for the visa is earning money to support themselves.

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It has been an uphill struggle and the darkest time was just a few weeks ago when they had 'lost hope'.

'My feet were almost on the plane,' said Arlene, who was sacked from her job at a Hemsby care home three months ago because of the uncertainty surrounding her visa status.

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But last Friday, while driving back from work - Arlene has been helping Stephen at his fencing and patio business, they received a phone call.

'I saw we'd had a missed call from the solicitor,' said Arlene.

'We'd just finished a delivery. I saw my mobile phone and my heart was jumping. I pulled over, put it on loud speaker and called back.'

'Because we have been given so much bad news in the past, our first thought was that it was going to be more bad news.

'And then he said congratulations. We both broke down and just started hugging each other.

'It feels like a lead weight has been lifted off our shoulders.'

The spousal visa give Arlene permission to stay in the UK for 30 months, after which she can apply for an extension and then a permanent visa. 'I used to call her my wife and now I call her my permanent wife,' joked Stephen. 'We've been to hell and back. But it's finally over.'

There are still solicitor fees to pay and paperwork to sort out, but the couple wanted to thank every one who has supported them from far and wide.

'We want to carry on supporting people going through the same thing,' said Arlene.

'To tell them not to give up, that there is some hope.'

They will also keep a close eye on the ongoing campaign to change the Home Office's minimum income rule.

'I find it unfair that you can't be in love with someone outside the EU if you're poor,' said Stephen.

'I thought you had the right to fall in love with anyone, from any country, of any race. The rules need to change.'

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