Church of England Diocese of Winchester Barton Stacey and Bullington

Love across borders

6 Mar 2019, 12:15 a.m.

One of the delights of being part of the global village is the increased chance of falling in love with someone of a different nationality. Many sons and daughters from the Dever Valley have married foreign nationals, resulting in families from different ends of the earth adopting each other as in-laws. But, at the present time, it is not without risk.

I have recently spent some time consoling distraught grandparents concerned for the psychological well-being of their son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Thirteen years ago, an English boy married a Thai girl. Madly in love, they settled in England, and a year or so later a little boy was born – a British national. The woman was granted a five-year visa giving ‘settled status’. Eighteen months after being married her father became grievously ill and so the young family decided to relocate to Thailand to help care for the wife’s father. Last year they decided to come back to England. The young boy settled well into secondary school, husband and wife found a place to live near to grandparents who, as previous, readily assured the State that they would act as guarantors for their much-loved Thai daughter-in-law. In haste to return to England with her husband and son, and not entirely certain if returning to the UK was going to work, the woman arrived on a six-month tourist visa. And here’s the rub. In order to renew a visa a foreign national must apply from within their country of origin. The woman has had to return to Thailand leaving behind a traumatised son and a very anxious husband, unsure how long it will be before they will see each other again.

And here’s another rub. In a Christian state, that hallows marriage as a foundation for family life, that status of marriage is demeaned when it involves a foreign national who does not have leave to stay in the United Kingdom – no matter how long they have been married to a British national.

And here’s another rub. If a family were to divorce and contest custody of the child in a family court of law, the judge would quite rightly place the needs of the child first and foremost – but what would that mean if the mother was a foreign national without leave to stay? The case above suggests that immigration law would supersede the rights of the child to having contact with both parents.

So, here’s a simple question. Why can’t a Thai mother, living in the Dever Valley, who has been married for thirteen years to a British national, with a British born son, apply for her visa to be renewed from a government department in London? Wouldn’t that be the Christian thing to do?

God Bless