About this site

This site describes the unlikely and unfortunate tale of how Home Office immigration bungling requires a successful British man's American wife and his 6-week old British child to urgently leave the country to obtain permission to return and stay.

We hope that this will surprise those readers who believe the current immigration rules are helping the country.

We've created this web site to publicise our case in the hope that we will be allowed to stay without further distress to our young family.

Update (6th Feb 2008): We are still settled in Germany, where we had lived before our short-lived move back to the UK. Right now we have no concrete plans to return, but are happy to know that it would be a trivial matter to do so -- having been resident in another European state as man and wife, we are entitled by an excellent piece of EC legislation to settle with her in any other EC state. Although the Home Office keeps it quiet, it is obliged by this legislation to promptly issue a free "EEA Family Permit" visa in this situation.

Update (24th May 2005): We received no appeal hearing date, and independently decided to leave the country. We are now happily resident in Germany, where we will be working, contributing to the economy, and paying taxes. If you have a similar story to ours, please let us know -- we plan to change this site into an exposé of how the UK's immigration policies can run counter to the interests of the country.
Update (25th August 2004): We set up this site in late July, shortly before making a further application to the Home Office. That application has recently been refused, and we are appealing that decision while simultaneously making preparations to move our family to a country that will welcome us.

About us

Family picture Hi, we're Steve, Lia and little Grace Purcell.  Steve is a very successful British software consultant, and lives and works in London.  Lia is a former ballet dancer and volunteer worker from the USA, and a committed and loving housewife.  Grace is our beautiful daughter, who was born on the first of June 2004.

We'd like to live here in the UK and raise our family, but complications with the Home Office are forcing us to consider taking our family - and our tax money - elsewhere.

Our story

We married in England at the beginning of this year, and through the tiring course of Lia's pregnancy we have tried to get permission for Lia to remain in the UK indefinitely.  We thought that we might need to leave the country to apply for a settlement visa for Lia, but in a phone call the Home Office advised us that we could apply from within the UK since Lia had been advised not to fly during her pregnancy. When we made our application, however, it was rejected because it was made in-country.

By the time our application was rejected, it was too late in Lia's pregnancy for her to travel abroad, but her existing visa was due to expire when Grace would be only 8 weeks old. In the light of this uncertainty we could neither plan to remain in the UK nor prepare to leave.

We resent the fact that the Home Office contradicted itself, leaving us anxious and distressed, and we have sought, through our Member of Parliament, to have our application re-examined.

Despite its original advice, the current position of the Home Office as relayed to us by the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration is that we have not followed the rules, and that "Mrs. Purcell should make arrangements to leave the country in August and apply for an entry clearance as a spouse. If this is granted, Mrs. Purcell may then apply for two years further leave to remain and seek indefinite leave to remain at the end of the probationary period."

That is, if we are to live and pay taxes in this country, Lia must first make two further applications, undertaking foreign travel with our unimmunised breast-fed infant.

Steve expects that we should be welcome in this country, and considers this state of affairs an affront to British tax-payers. Taking into account income taxes, council taxes, VAT and national insurance contributions, Steve and his family's visitors have directly contributed well over £60,000 to the State since Steve moved to the UK.

Timeline

February 2001 Steve and Lia meet each other while living in Munich, Germany and become best of friends.
October 2002 Steve and Lia realise that they are in love!
March 2003 Steve moves to London to start a new job; Lia visits as regularly as she can.
October 2003 Lia discovers that she is pregnant with our child
November 2003 We begin to plan a wedding for the earliest possible date after Lia's divorce is finalised in January, and think about where to settle.
24th January 2004 Lia and Steve signing the marriage registerOur beautiful wedding takes place in the UK, with 60 guests, most of whom fly in from overseas.
Early February 2004 After a weekend trip to visit friends in Luxembourg Steve talks further with his employer about moving to the USA, and we decide that we want to settle instead in the UK.

Lia receives medical advice to avoid flying while pregnant, so we contact the Home Office to find out if we must make the settlement application abroad. After fully explaining our situation, we are told that we can make an in-country application if we include a covering letter detailing our circumstances.
12th February 2004 We submit our settlement application with a covering letter as directed.
19th February 2004 Receipt of application (and £155 processing fee) is confirmed by Home Office, who "Aim to complete 70% of postal applications within 3 weeks of receiving them in IND."
24th February 2004 A progress update from Home Office;
"Your application is valid but we are sorry to have to inform you that we can't decide it on initial consideration. It is therefore being passed to other teams for further enquiries and/or more detailed consideration."
11th March 2004 We receive notice of the Home Office decision:
"You applied for further leave to remain as the spouse of a person present and settled in the UK, but your application has been refused.

You have applied for leave to remain in the United Kingdom on the basis of your marriage to Stephen Michael Purcell. However the immigration rules direct that a person seeking such leave is to be refused if they do not meet the requirements set out in the immigration rules as amended by HC 538. This includes that the applicant has limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom other than where that leave is of 6 months' duration or less. On 1/2/2004 you were granted limited leave to enter as a visitor for a period of six months from 1/2/2004 until 1/8/2004 therefore you do not meet the requirements of having limited leave for a period of more than 6 months in the United Kingdom.

You are not entitled to appeal this decision. Section 82 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 does not provide a right of appeal where an applicant still has leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom and so is entitled to stay here.

You still have permission to stay until 1 August 2004. You are not required to leave the United Kingdom as a result of this decision."
15th March Steve writes to his Member of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Chris Smith. Mr. Smith offers to make representations on our behalf to the newly-appointed Minister of State for Citizenship and Immigration, Mr. Des Browne.
14th April Having received copies of our correspondence with the Home Office, Mr. Smith writes to Mr. Browne.
14th May Mr. Smith receives a letter from Mr. Browne, who explains in detail that, according to the Immigration Rules, our application was not valid due to the exact circumstances we had previously explained to the Home Office in our telephone call.

Mr. Browne also implies that we had deliberately neglected to obtain the "appropriate entry clearance" when re-entering the country from our weekend trip, neglecting that we only determined to settle after our return, and that we were willing to travel again soon thereafter if told that it was necessary.
"Presumably, Mrs. Purcell then left the United Kingdom by air and re-entered the United Kingdom, by air, on 1 February.  Also, as Mrs. Purcell had leave to enter the United Kingdom until 1 August the refusal notice specifically stated that Mrs Purcell was not required to leave the United Kingdom due to this decision. [...] Mrs. Purcell's circumstances were not considered sufficiently compassionate to warrant the exercise of discretion outside the Immigration Rules.

There are no medical grounds preventing travel on an aeroplane when the child has been born.  Therefore, unless there are any serious compelling and compassionate circumstances before Mrs. Purcell's leave to enter expires on 1 August, Mrs. Purcell will have to obtain the appropriate entry clearance if she wishes to remain in the United Kingdom on the basis of her marriage."
26th May Mr. Smith replies to Mr. Browne's letter, explaining that it is far from ideal for Lia to travel with Grace overseas, and that obtaining the "appropriate entry clearance" will be disruptive to our family life and extremely distressing.
1st June Grace is born, with minor complications.Grace
17th June 2004
Mr. Smith advises us that he has received a reply to his further correspondence with Mr. Browne, which leaves him no opportunity to represent us further; it is a terse re-statement of the previous letter, concluding with the statement that:
"It does not appear that the circumstances of this case are sufficiently compelling or compassionate enough to justify granting leave to remain on a discretionary basis.  Mrs. Purcell should make arrangements to leave the country in August and apply for an entry clearance as a spouse.  If this is granted, Mr. [sic] Purcell may then apply for two years further leave to remain and seek indefinite leave to remain at the end of the probationary period."
This once again fails to recognise that we would not have made an expensive application with a supporting letter from within the country if we had not been told that it would be considered.

The Home Office letterhead bears the motto "Building a safe, just and tolerant society", which its attitude to us hardly appears to support.
29th June 2004
Steve writes once again to Mr. Smith to thank him for his help and to ask if the matter might be referred to the Prime Minister.
4th July 2004
Steve writes to the Prime Minister to ask him to investigate our case and ensure that common sense and individual consideration is applied to our case.  Steve's parents have also written to Mr. Blair.
17th July 2004
Steve receives a reply from Mr. Blair's "Direct Communications Unit", indicating that the buck has been passed back to the Home Office.
"The matter you raise is the responsibility of the Home Office, therefore [the Prime Minister] has asked that your letter be forwarded to that Department so that they are also aware of your views."
(Update: no further response was received, nor was any response made to a letter written by Steve's parents to Mr. Blair asking him to intervene.)
25th July 2004 With the deadline for Lia to leave the country approaching fast, we received and followed advice from the Immigration Advisory Service to repeat Lia's application, this time explicitly on compassionate grounds.

We gathered letters supporting those compassionate grounds. A letter from our GP and health visitor advised both Lia and Grace to avoid flying on medical grounds; that letter and others from Steve's employer, family and acquaintances confirmed the distress the matter was causing the family, and the distress that would result from Lia being compelled to travel to the US with Grace at that time.

To explain our re-application, we wrote a very polite and comprehensive letter of our own.
15th September 2004 We received notice that Lia's second application had been refused. The refusal notice offered Lia the choice of appealing the decision or leaving the country within 28 days on pain of forcible removal -- ironically, this removal was described as being sent "home"!
24th September 2004 Having undertaken extensive research and sought legal advice, we submitted an appeal against the refusal.

It appears that both the refusal of our application and any subsequent removal of Lia from the country would be not only unfair, but possibly also illegal under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which grants everyone "the right to respect for his private and family life". The grounds that we have cited for our appeal include the likelihood that the actions of the Home Office are or would be in breach of that Article.

The appeal process can take up to a year, and during that time we cannot leave the country without voiding the application. (We learned that there are 100 full-time Adjudicators who hear appeals for refused immigration applications!)

Although it would be nice to have the refusal overturned, our negative experience during this saga has led us to prepare to leave the country and live instead in a country that will welcome us.
2004-present See updates at page top

What you can do to help

If you are dismayed by our story, please consider taking a few minutes to send a letter or an e-mail to your Member of Parliament to express your sentiments.

Alternatively, you might like to contact a member of the press.

Contacting us

If you would like to contact us, you can send us e-mail at unwelcome@unwelcome.org.uk.