A LOVING husband has been caught up in a red-tape nightmare as he fights for a visa for his wife.
Norman Hollis, 58, from Washington, has been trying to secure permission for his wife of 12 years, Sophia, to join him since returning from South Africa 18 months ago.
He says UK Border Agency officials have refused to accept evidence that the marriage is genuine.
“We met in 2000 and married in 2001,” he said. “I was actually moving into the house she was moving out of.”
Engineer Norman was working for a firm in South Africa at the time. “Unfortunately, the business got taken over and we all lost our jobs,” he said. “I couldn’t find another job, so I moved back in October 2011 and applied for a visa for my wife in November.
“I have been fighting to bring her over, but they just keep throwing paperwork at me,” he said. “They said we had not provided enough information to prove that we had been married for 11 years. They wanted phone records. Who keeps phone records on pay-as-you-go?
“I’ve put in statements from my mother and sister to confirm they used to come out every year for a holiday with us. There are lots of photos of them with Sophia’s kids and my son Daniel over the years.
“We sold the house together. If you were going to have a marriage of convenience, would you really turn over half your house to someone you were only going to see once?”
Norman is unemployed and says the cost of pursuing his claim means the odds are stacked against him.
“I could make a personal presentation at a tribunal in Leicester, but that is another £180,” he said.
“If she was an asylum seeker, there would be no problem. There are about 50 different forms for asylum, but nothing for something like this.
“I don’t know how people can just enter the country and then we can’t get rid of them, but I am trying to get my wife to live with me and I can’t do it.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson has promised to help.
“I have been advising Mr Hollis and making representations on his behalf to the UK Border Agency to request that the initial refusal for a visa be reconsidered,” she said. “Mr Hollis and his wife now have the opportunity to formally appeal the decision, and I hope that they are successful.
“If he is not, there are a number of further avenues to explore, and I will continue to offer any advice and help I can throughout.”
A Home Office spokesperson said the visa was refused due to the couple’s financial situation.
He said: “We believe that those choosing to establish their family life here should be able to support themselves financially and not be a burden to the taxpayer.
“The visa was refused because the application did not meet the income threshold required by our immigration rules.”