In April 2016, Home Secretary Theresa May plans to enforce a new rule meaning Migrant workers will need to earn at least £35,000 a year to qualify for permanent settlement in the UK.
The average annual salary being £26,500 and the fact that many students and migrant workers (including trained NHS nurses who earn on average under £23,000 per annum) often earn even less will result in a predicted 40,000 people being forced to leave the UK and return ‘home.’ That is…to a ‘home’ they no longer call their own.
In a law already enforced, people from non-EU countries who marry UK citizens are not entitled to permanently join them in the UK if their spouse earns less than £18,600 a year.
Caught between the two laws, Angela Carlton, a 26 year-old American Ph.D. student living in London tells her story.
Dear Theresa May,
I am writing to you as a third-year, American Ph.D. student and as a newly married LGBT woman who has just wed another third-year Ph.D. student, who just happens to be English. As you might imagine we don’t have a lot of money. My wife works part-time as a copywriter but it’s freelance work to accommodate her rigorous study schedule and as such she doesn’t have access to paid holiday or sick leave and does not make enough money to keep me in the UK under either legislation.
I grew up in the American south. My parents are ardent conservatives, hard-working people who don’t support illegal immigration or welfare systems. They also don’t support LGBT rights and thus, when I married my partner Jessica in September of last year, I was officially disowned and disinherited.
This was obviously very emotionally difficult for me but it has also been financially very challenging. I relied on my family to a great extent to help me finance my higher education. My dad is a professor in California and has always encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. and my parents were very proud of me for being accepted and following in my father’s footsteps.
They promised to support me whenever I needed.
I almost believed that my accomplishments academically made up for the fact that I was gay in their eyes, despite that they never asked me personal details about my love life and would get angry if I broached the subject; I never believed they would actually reject me for who I decided to live my life with.
But the fact remains that they did. When I told my dad that my partner and I had married he was enraged and sent me a text reading: “This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done! Annul it immediately, or you will not have a family…” whilst my grandfather responded with: “you have made the biggest mistake in your life. I’m so disappointed in you. I will never, never, never ever accept this statement…Goodbye, Angela. There goes Christmas and all other reunions”.
[full message text below]
My family have stayed true to their word and have not responded to any of the myriads of messages I’ve sent them since. I’m heartbroken but what can I do? Jessica makes me so happy and I wouldn’t sacrifice her for anyone. When I read about this new legislation it terrified me.
Studying in UK was a dream I first developed when I was five years old, I don’t really know why, but I love and respond to everything English. At 16 my Dad took me on a tour de force of the UK, I remember on the airplane ride over how he leaned over to me and said gently, “now don’t be too disappointed if England isn’t exactly like you imagine,” but I was never worried, as soon as I saw the rolling, manicured fields from my plane window I felt awash with indescribable joy, as if I had come home.
I chose Royal Holloway for my Masters because I knew that it originally had been a girls college and even though it’s now unisex, I felt that I was supporting the equal education of women by attending. In London, I made some of the best friends of my life, people from all over the world. I was impressed by the amount of diversity as something I hadn’t really experienced and I left with good friends from Iraq, Thailand, France and South Africa.
When I returned for my Ph.D., I didn’t expect to meet someone that I fell so much in love with so quickly. I met Jessica at an academic event She told me that she was also doing her Ph.D. so we had that common ground and began talking about how it would be nice to have a study partner. Soon Jessica and I became inseparable best friends but I think I fell in love with her when she invited me to her family home for Easter.
Her family embraced me as one of their own and I felt that I meshed very naturally into their dynamic. A few months later, Jessica and I talked about marriage for the first time. I told Jessica that I wasn’t sure about a wedding because I didn’t think my family would attend and then she said, “well all that matters to me about marriage is the gesture of commitment to each other, and no one needs to be there for that except us.”
If I have to go back to America without Jessica I’ll have nowhere to go and no home to return to. Jessica is my family now and I’m terrified of being separated from her and forced to go back to a country where my old family has rejected me and doesn’t want me.
I never expected to make a lot of money when I decided to study English literature, but I’ve always followed my heart and my heart has chosen three things so far in my life: literature, England, and Jessica. And personally, those three things mean more to me than anything in the world.
In my heart I am English and what’s more my heart loves an English woman. Please don’t send me away.
Angela Carlton, MA PhD Student English Literature
To sign the petition to scrap the £35K threshold (which is the first time that a British government has imposed an economic test on the right to settlement in the UK) click HERE.
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