A man whose wife was rejected for a visa to live in Britain in error has called it “outrageous” that it took the publicity he drummed up, including by writing a HuffPost UK blog, to reverse the decision.
The Home Office told Satbir Singh, 30, on Friday it was wrong to deny his Indian wife Gitanjali, 31, a visa, after Singh wrote a widely read blog about his pain and anger about their initial refusal three days earlier.
“My wife is coming home because you gave me a platform to tell the world what is being done to people,” he told HuffPost.
“I’m incredibly grateful... but this isn’t how government is supposed to work.”
Singh added: “I find it outrageous this is how errors are brought to their attention. Most people can’t do this. Most people can’t write something for HuffPost and bring pressure to bear. They shouldn’t have to.”
It has been a whirlwind week for the couple. Singh learned on Monday the Home Office had reached a decision. He was so sure she would be coming to London he ordered a “Welcome Home” banner off Amazon.
On Tuesday, he received the rejection. He said it left him “in shock”.
He was sure it was a mistake in processing their application and defining his income to assess whether he earned the £18,600 Britons must if they want to bring a spouse from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
On Wednesday, he picked up the keys to the Kilburn flat they were due to rent together.
“As a husband, I am broken,” he wrote that day in his blog.
I find it outrageous this is how errors are brought to their attention. Satbir Singh
“The [Home Office] has overlooked or misplaced key documents and declared that we have failed to submit them.
“They have applied the incorrect sections of the law and declared that we fail to satisfy them, and all this with almost complete impunity. Four different lawyers have confirmed that the Home Office has made a mistake.”
Their lawyer had told them an appeal could take up to a year. The lawyer had been due to respond to the Home Office on Monday, Singh said.
But on Friday, two days after his blog was published, Singh said he received an automated email acknowledging the mistake and apologising.
The Home Office confirmed it had reversed its original decision.
The couple met studying at SOAS in London in 2010 and were married in 2014.
They moved to America where Satbir Singh pursued a scholarship to study while Gitanjali Singh worked for the Clinton Health Access Initiative.
But her visa forced her to leave Washington for Delhi in September 2016, the last time the couple lived together.
“It is a year that has seen us forced to live on opposite sides of the world, in different time zones and climates, each of us stealing moments at odd hours to be there on the phone when the other one woke up or went to sleep,” Satbir Singh wrote in his blog.
He returned to Britain in January and worked freelance as a human rights consultant until September, when he became chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which campaigns against the visa rules.
The transition from self-employment complicated their visa application, which requires evidence of six months’ earnings.
She had stayed in her job, working remotely, and the visa application included the fact this work would continue when she came to Britain.
But, in such cases, the spouse’s income does not count if they are working abroad.
The couple applied in October, having waited to ensure they all the necessary paperwork, Satbir Singh said.
Singh said their application ran to 1,103 pages and included two years’ of bank statements, 12 months of WhatsApp messages and photos and tickets from their holidays they’ve taken together, to prove their relationship was real.
He said of the initial rejection: “I felt my love for this country tested.”
He now hopes she can come to London in time for Christmas.
The controversial rules on minimum incomes to bring spouses to Britain were introduced in 2012 by Theresa May.
A 2015 study estimated 41% of working Britons do not earn enough to bring a spouse from outside the EEA.
A Home Office spokesperson told HuffPost UK that the initial application was lodged on 9th October and was processed within seven weeks.
They added: “This was a complex application and as soon as it was made clear than an error had been made the initial decision was reversed and a visa authorised.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect a statement from the Home Office.