UK Border Agency

I am a Brit, as is my daughter. My wife is not, however, and she's is France with a 5 year Carte de Sejour, being non European. She recently applied for and got a visa to vist the USA with me and my daughter to attend my eldest son's wedding in Washington DC. The visa application was fairly complicated but smooth, including the interview at the USA Paris consulate. Although we didn't actually ask for a visa of that length she was given one for ten years. The whole procedure was not one that led to anxiety and on arrival in the USA we were through in five minutes flat.

My other son is also getting married this year, but in the UK. As my wife has a Schengen visa only she is required to get a visa to enter the UK even when accompanied by me and our daughter. We applied for a visa for two years (320 euros) which involved a great deal of paperwork, a visit to an office in a distant suburb of Paris, where photos and fingerprints were taken. She then handed over a vast amount of paperwork including our marriage certificate, passports for all of us, a detailed intinerary in the UK, paid over 30 euros for a delivery bag. I should say that we live in distant Brittany so a considerable journey and cost was involved.

A week later her application was refused. The reasons given that there was no evidence that we had any relations in the UK (there are in fact only four people in the UK with our surname to my knowledge and we are all related! We had given full details of where we would be staying in the itinerary and a covering letter giving details of the wedding) and that there was no evidence that my wife had sufficient funds for the week. (I am paying for everything, not uncommon when one is bringing up a young family)

The very next day we made a new application, this time submitting far more financial information, inluding the following documentation:

Application form 15 pages

Interview arrangement (ineternet booking required)

Payment another 100 euros plus an envelope at that end costing abot 30 euros

Covering letter 2 pages

Itinerary whilst in UK all addresses etc

Wedding invitations and copy

Covering letter from my son and his passport details

Colour copies of three passports with originals

Marriage Cert plus copy

Financial info on me

Bank statements and copy 2 banks (me)

Bank Statements and copy (wife)

Financial projection and copy

Rates Bills and copy (Habitation, Fonciere)

Income tax receipt and copy (France)

Wife's French employment record and copy

Wife's French benefit record and copy

It was with some difficulty that my wife insisted that they took all the documents which have been submitted to prove it's a genuine application. We've been married four years in June and it's very clearly a genuine application. I am not unsupportive of tighter border controls in general but the tail is very obviously wagging the dog. At the "interview" they don't seem very concerned with taking any financial details yet in London they appear to be of great importance.

The "interview" is done by an agency which is in fact really a place for checking completeness of documents, taking photos and fingerporints only. There is no real qualitative interview and no discussion of the circumstances. The decision is taken in London and there is no chance of actually speaking with the office in London as the phone number is secret and they say there is no appeal procedure.

We await the result of the latest application with interest. If my wife is not given a visa then it will not be easy for my three year old daughter to come alone with me. I regard attendance by us as a family at my son's wedding an important family occasion. It will certainly affect my full enjoyment of the wedding, which is in June.

The cost of all the paperwork, special envelopes, applications, travel to Paris etc for what is essentially a week's visit is nearly 1000 euros so far. My budget for the whole week was 2000 euros and I have alrady made a significant contribution towards the wedding. We had arranged to stay with two lots of friends and stay two nights sightseeing in Snowdonia (hotel booked), and two nights in a hotel for the wedding (hotel booked). I have already booked and paid for the car ferry. Abortive costs could amount to another 100 euros or so.

What started out as a plan to have a lovely week in the UK, meet a few friends, do some sightseeing and attend the wedding has in fact turned out to be a total nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions. At the same time one reads daily of problems in the UK Border Agency, where persons apparently fighting vendettas against the country are allowed free passage, but my wife is not allowed to visit her stepson's marriage, even when accompanied by me. I never imagined that we would have a problem with such a visa.

Does anybody else have any ideas or experiences? It's not so much Survive France as Survive UK! I frequently receive publicity begging me to visit the UK with my family to enjoy a holiday there- they must be joking!

If another refusal is met I will be writing letters to Downing Street and the Home Office and will do anything legal to get her over!

well I wish you well....and hope it is all sorted out asap....having spent years working in disability services (I am a nurse...used to work in cardiology!) I grew used to fighting red tape...and learnt to play dirty and play to whatever is neccessary...persistence is a virtue...but as I am sure you realise...try to not stress...easy to say...hard to do...but important for your lots of deep breaths and take your mind off it as much as you can...

Thanks Carol. I am just starting on it all. My son's stepfather is a retired UK Ambassador and I know Cameron's secretary so I'll be peppering some of these people inc the MP covering my last UK consituency in the coming days. I have already drafted a formal appeal under the dreaded Human Right's Act- never thought I would have to do anything like that in my life! It's all amazingly stressful- I have already survived three deep vein thromboses and I have yet another visit with my heart specialist next week. I do think that unfortunately there is a certain attitude amongst some officials and their systems in the UK. On the contrary we attended my other son's wedding in Washington DC in March and the whole procedure was swift and smooth. My wife was given a 10 year Visa and we had a great time spending our money in the USA! The best thing though was attending the wedding as a family and that was incredibly important from a family point of view.

wow David..major headache!!! once again...the jobsworths strike! you have my brother is married to a filipino citizen...and I have seen the nightmares they are dealing with. If you have an address in the UK, contact your local MP and ask for help....if you dont have an address...get your sons MP involved...newspapers if neccessary...headlines...My dad cant attend my wedding due to jobsworth! type of thing. Ive always found MPs most useful...always worth sending all communications registered post...make sure you have the names of any civil servants you have to deal with....whoever you deal with...ask to deal with their manager of department (I used to work for the VAT office...and customs and excise) the person who said you have no relatives stating where they are and who they are...suggest by your language you feel you are dealing with a five year old....but as I said...newspapers love a sob story...and it often makes for a resolution....good luck!

My wife and daughter are now French citizens!


Congratulations David.
We are looking at that but need the security of knowing that the UK will continue to pay for our healthcare.
Less stress for you must be good.