IT is still November, but 2013 truly has been one hell of a rollercoaster year for myself, my family and my friends.
But today is one of the best days of the year.
My very good friend and work colleague Craig and his partner Crystal are officially no longer illegal immigrants.
The good news came through just a few hours ago after one of the biggest blunders by the UK immigration agency imaginable.
And I am so delighted for them both.
Craig’s Canadian wife Crystal posted this on Facebook just a few minutes ago: “Finally! After a year and a half of holding my passport and marriage certificate for ransom the UKBA/ Home Office has officially withdrawn their decision to deny me leave to remain. This morning I picked up my passport and marriage certificate along with a new visa and permission granted for leave to remain! Mommy I am coming home!”
Rather than confuse anyone reading this blog anymore, I attach an article I published on the front page of my newspaper (The Denbighshire Free Press) early in March this year… it tells the background. The story was immediately picked up by British national newspapers and magazines and within a week was international:
A SERIES of bureaucratic blunders by the Home Office mean Free Press photographer Craig Colville could be forced to leave the UK if he wants to continue to live with his wife.
This is despite the fact he has a Welsh mother and English father, he was born and went to school in St Asaph, raised near Talacre and now lives in Chester.
The 31-year-old met his now wife Crystal, a Canadian citizen, in 2006 when they were both working on a cruise ship.
After a long distance relationship she moved to the UK on a Youth Mobility Visa in October 2010 and the pair were married at a ceremony in Llangollen last July.
Once they became husband and wife, Crystal, 29, applied to the Home Office for “an extension of stay as the husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of a permanent resident”.
But Home Secretary Theresa May refused the application, saying Crystal could not stay in the UK because Welsh husband Craig “does not hold settled status, is not a British citizen and is not a person with refugee leave/humanitarian protection”.
“My wife and I are extremely upset by how poorly the Home Office have treated our case,” said Craig, a former Ysgol Glan Clwyd student.
“It should have been very straightforward as I am a British citizen.”
Craig and Crystal were told if they were not happy with the decision the only thing they could do was to lodge an official appeal.
But in yet another blunder by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), a section of the Home Office, they have now been told their application for appeal has been refused because it was not in on time.
The couple were told in their original refusal letter, sent on February 4, they had until February 18 (10 working days) to appeal. But on March 7 they received a letter saying their notice of appeal had been refused.
Someone at the UKBA had confused 10 days with 10 working days and the application should have been received by February 14.
“When we called to query this we were told the only thing we could do was to lodge an official appeal against the decision not to allow us to appeal,” said Craig.
“It’s getting beyond a joke now, I dread to think how much this is going to cost the tax payer to sort out.”
Crystal has been told if her appeal is unsuccessful she “must leave the United Kingdom as soon as possible” when her present visa runs out.
The letter from the UKBA adds: “If you do not leave the United Kingdom voluntarily, you will be removed to Canada.”
Craig added: “I do not have the right to live or work in Canada and my worst fear is that we would be separated again, ruining everything we have worked towards.”
Ironically Craig’s identical twin brother Scott, also born in St Asaph, has not been told by Britain’s border guards that he is not a British citizen.
Equally ironic is that Crystal’s grandparents were a Geordie and a Scot. If she had foreseen the current Home Office blunders, Crystal could have qualified for full British citizenship under an ancestry visa.
Craig, who now lives in Chester with Crystal, has contacted Chester MP Stephen Mosley about the matter.
A spokesman for his office said Mr Mosley was supporting the couple and had contacted the UKBA, but that he could not comment further whilst the issue was ongoing.
At the time of going to press Craig and Crystal received a further letter from the Home Office in which they underlined the fact that the couple would have to continue their life outside the UK.
A UKBA spokesman said: “We are writing to Ms Levy (Crystal) this week regarding her application. It would be inappropriate to comment further until she has received the latest correspondence.”
Now everything is as it should have been in the first place.
Craig and Crystal can live and work as a normal married couple and at last Crystal can pop home to Canada to visit her mum and brother without fear of not being allowed back into the UK and her loving husband.
A very good day indeed.