Thursday, July 19, 2007

Severed Dreams

"I have also taken account of the provisions of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. I consider that refusing this application is justified and proportionate in the exercise of the immigration control. I note that refusing this application will not interfere with family life, for the purposes of Article 8 (1), which you can enjoy in Korea".

British Embassy, Seoul

And just like that my wife was refused entry to the UK and the British Government effectively exiled me to Korea for the rest of my life. No, you don't know the full story - there's just too much of this farce to tell here - but when I tell you that one of the reasons for refusal was that the officer making the decision concluded that we didn't intend to settle in the UK (what?!), then you may gain an insight into the utter absurdity with which my entire life has been turned on its head. Not that I played any part in it because I was not part of the process. I thought as a British citizen I had the right to reside in my own country with my wife and come and go as I pleased. Well I don't.

Earlier in the day we'd dropped by Korean Mother's apartment and discovered that she was with Psychic Aunt, preparing food for offerings in an afternoon prayer session which they'd hired a special room for at a temple. They were praying that we would receive a favourable judgement from the Embassy, which was pretty selfless of them since all other things being equal they would much prefer that my wife stays in Korea. Of course, they want her to be happy, and they want me to be happy, and they know it can't be very pleasant getting told by your own government that you have to live in a different country. The fact is I've been pretty down since returning from Seoul because when I heard how the interview was conducted I had a strong sense of where this was going,
no matter how hard it was to believe. So for once, Psychic Aunt's attempts to cheer me up with her bizarre and simply indescribable dancing met with nothing more than a forced smile from me.

We got the letter by courier late afternoon - can you believe that after the non-refundable 950,000 won (about £506 - yes over five hundred pounds - say it slowly and let it sink in) application fee (
for a form and my wife's twenty minute interview) they actually made the 3,000 won courier charge payable cash on delivery by us. (edit: the next day, they sent the passports which turned out to be missing from the first envelope, pay-on-delivery, costing us another 3,000 won). Then we had to phone Korean Mother and tell her to stop praying because it hadn't worked.

So with the monsoon rains fitting my mood this evening, I'll sit here reading stories of foreigners attacking Koreans, and Koreans attacking foreigners, contemplating the wider world's growing propensity towards nationalism and wondering what my future - a future stuck in Korea - holds. It's not that Korea is a terrible place - I've had fun here - but I want to be able to go home. I'm still not sure the enormity of this situation has sunk in.

Korean keywords: 정부, 대사관, 망명자, 불교, 영국


Anonymous said...

This is gutting, and absolutely unbelievable. I can understand them when it's a green card issue, but you guys have been together years. I hope there is a way for you to appeal. A letter to your MP would also be a good idea:
Finally you can also apply for Korean citezenship, and give 2 fingers to the UK.
Hope it all gets sorted for you.

Mike said...

Thanks, it is unbelievable. I'm rather cynical by nature, so I'd like to think that little surprises me, especially when it comes to governments and bureaucratic processes. But this has taken some of my most basic assumptions about the nature of British Citizenship and shown them to be false.

I don't want to become a Korean citizen even if my government has all but told me that as far as they're concerned I have to live here for the rest of my life. I'm afraid I just don't see myself as a Korean - and I don't think the Koreans would either!

Anonymous said...

You could always move to Canada, it's sort of like Britain..

Mike said...

Hopefully without the bureaucratic officiousness though!

Oddly enough, I was thinking about Canada in the longer term - maybe it will be sooner now. But it would be quite ironic if another country was happy to take us in when my own refuses to give us the right to enter.

daeguowl said...

I was shocked to hear about this. I certainly never had any problems when I did it, it just seemed to be a matter of confirming that it was a genuine marriage rather than a marriage of convenience. Have Korean spouses suddenly started defaulting on their visas?

Mike said...

Daeguowl - one of the main reasons given was that in the opinion of the officer who made the decision we didn't really intend to settle in the UK - although this begs the question of why we would pay the non-refundable £500 fee to apply for such a visa if that wasn't our intention.

But reading the blogs of a number of Koreans who've applied for visas with the British Embassy recently has thrown up some equally surprising reasons for rejections, and the impression that there may have been a change in policy. It's very odd.

daeguowl said...

when my wife received her visa, they said it would be automatically revoked if she went to live abroad again (although with outgoing border controls being what they are, I'm not sure how they'd know.)

Anonymous said...

Are you eligible for an Irish passport? It could provide another route towards getting your wife an EU work permit and starting the naturalisation process.

Mike said...

Probably not, even though I do have a little Irish heritage. I don't know what I'm going to do if I can't get back into my own country to live, but I must admit, if I can't I don't even feel like a British citizen any more - so I suppose if we exhaust the appeals process I have a lot to think about exactly where I belong in the world.

Mike said...

Daeguowl - I think they'd figure it out when your wife came back - 24 months seems to be the probationary period in most cases (though there are some fascinating exceptions for certain government workers!)

I've recently read an internal Diplomatic Service document - publicly available I hasten to add - which amongst many other interesting points basically admits in black and white that there are no exiting immigration controls. But I suppose we knew that anyway.

Anonymous said...

ahahaha! when was this? my mum is the ECO there! so she made the decision! ;)

mate, its not difficult. Did you read the form and have ALL the papers in order, proof of money etc. If you did, then its down to what ur wife said in interview!!

did u submit proof of ur genuine relationship? the Entry clearence officer is human, not a machine, so its you who has to convince them. they make reasoned deicisions. I was temporarily working there a few summers back and part of the job was to shred old applications and paper work. one couple in the same situation submitted all sorts, including years old emails!!

you probably just werent convincing. how long have you been dating...until your marriadge etc!

Mike said...

Hello 'Anonymous',

That's quite a claim, but your attitude and style does bear a family resemblance, so perhaps it could be true. The circumstances of your working for the Embassy were interesting.

Just for the record, though most of this is inferred elsewhere, my wife and I have been in a relationship since 1999 and the ECO appears to have been satisfied by this. The primary reason given for our exclusion, as I've mentioned in previous comments above, was that the ECO did not believe we intended to return to settle in the UK, the warped logicality of which probably speaks for itself, to most normal people anyway.

As per the "mate, its not difficult" (sic) comment, it’s human nature to often make the mistake of believing that something is not difficult, and end up being somewhat dismissive of those who seem to encounter problems. Ergo, people never believe in bureaucracy’s injustices until it happens to them. Yet you are right that the ECO is a human, i.e. they are prone to making mistakes they will never admit to and the over-zealous use of power. It takes one government officer in a bad mood on a Monday morning to decide you are the enemy, and then the entire apparatus of The State will immediately support them and fight you, at least initially. You can't conceptualise the horror of it until you've experienced it. If you think these individuals make reasoned decisions then I believe you have too much faith in the absence of human emotion and fallibility in pressured work environments. Perhaps one day you’ll fall foul of the system in some way, perhaps through no apparent fault of your own, and I would ask how you would feel when you too are almost criminalised or excluded in some way, especially in the face of someone who would seem to be making light of your situation?

I have documentary proof serious material errors have been made. The Embassy know this too and must realise by this stage that this has gone badly wrong, so if they reject our appeal one must ask what their motivation is in the face of the evidence. If our appeal is upheld, either by the Embassy or a legal hearing, the probationary nature of my wife's visa will probably preclude me from going public with the full details of this case. If we lose, all bets are off and this will go to the next stage.

Anonymous said...

mike start an online petition to the PM. I am sure you will get a lot of support. i have a friend who married from thailand and her spouse was deported but she travelled there and has finally managed to get him 2 get visa to come to UK. Sometimes the government is over protective of us that to make us safe they keep us outside. :)

Gunther said...

been there... letter to local MP, letter to Minister responsible for immigration and naturalisation, letter to opposition spokesperson for immigration and naturalisation and letter to LibDem spokesperson for immigration and naturalisation. Finally, get an offer of a job in the UK and then re-do the whole process to Minister and spokespersons for Labour... finally, have a kid, register and obtain citizenship through paternal inheritance and start from first point again...

Mike said...

Gunther - sounds like you've been down the road I've only just taken the first few steps along. It's a bit depressing really to see how hard you had to work. I've exchanged communications with my MP and his office has been quite supportive up to a point, but when I put it to them that the reason this had happened to my wife and I was due to a recent unannounced policy shift, I got a rather terse response. I'd asked for help in identifying who had decided on the change in policy, but my questions and request for assistance went unanswered. I hold an increasingly old fashioned belief that people in public office and those who work for them are supposed to be public servants - they have a duty to be accountable to the people they represent. But in my experience they think often they are better than the rest of us. I don't know how much can be achieved with such people.

I'm planning to write to other politicians for what that's worth and I have some media possibilities but I don't want to rush into anything. I also have to consider the advice of my lawyer in most matters now.

Anonymous said...

That is trully heartbreaking. I had no problems getting my wife into the UK. She is filipina and we had to apply through the UK embassy in Manila. They granted her a visa, even although we both live and work in Korea.

We could have did the process through the Seoul embassy, but knowing how many kickbacks they are taking (we experienced this when we got married, they wanted to charge more than 400'000 (fees unpublished on website) in associated fees compared to £49 in Manila!) we chose to go to the Manila embassy instead.

Perhaps you could try and re-apply in a different embassy.

Mike said...

Thanks for the comments, anonymous. I have read about a few cases where people have tried different embassies. For the moment we're working our way through the legal process and when this is over we'll have to see where we stand and how we move forward from that point.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike

I'd be interested to hear how you are getting on. The immigration rules in the UK seem to be applied in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. My son's wife is African but cannot get a spousal visa so they have to live apart. The reason given was that my son doesn't have enough money. He has never claimed any benefits and has always worked but he has a loan that was taken out to pay for the wedding and his airfares and phone calls to his wife. Can they see that his financial situation would be resolved if she were able to live here in the UK with him? Of course not. The whole thing is illogical.

I hope your situation has resolved itself.


Mike said...


I'm really sorry to hear about your son's situation with his wife. I must admit, there was a time when I would have found it difficult to believe that the Government could destroy British citizens' lives in such a way, but now I know these people are capable of anything.

Something quite sinister is going on but the truth is few people care and there seems little we can do in the abuse of governmental power against us.

And it is an abuse. Nobody should be in any doubt that civil and human rights are being trampled on by Government in the name of chasing immigration targets at any cost. Most people think it doesn't affect them, but if the Government aren't stopped here we are going to lose everything which generations of British people have fought for and everything that we believe our country stands for.

We are told that our country stands for the fundamental principle of innocence until guilt is proven. I was judged guilty with no proof and no evidence, but merely on whatever the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) could conjure up in her imagination. It seems the same is true of your son.

Their remit is to make decisions "on the balance of probabilities" but the question anyone in our situation should ask is this: was the decision really made on the balance of probabilities or possibilities? That's a very important distinction - because anything is possible, and when ECOs can make decisions on this basis we can all be guilty for any reason their imaginations can conjure up. That is a very dangerous world to live in.

I don't know if your son was able to appeal the decision but I would have hoped there would have been some scope to get it overturned. On this blog's homepage click on 'view my complete profile' under the 'about me' section - there is a link to email me there. Please feel free to contact me - I may have useful experience to share.

My case was heard by a judge on Monday, and we are awaiting the decision. But win or lose, I'm not done with this - not by a long way. The lawyers will fight these battles case by case, but the infringements of our civil rights is a political problem requiring a political solution. I've started writing a book about my experience, and I'm planning a separate blog or website with more detail of my case to help people, but that's a minimal response. We must fight back and defend our country from those in Government who would take it away from us.

Anonymous said...

A sad tale to say the least. Have you our your family tried getting in touch with the MP that represents their district?

You might also try getting your story printed in a UK newspaper.

Outsiders digging into the local affairs will most likely cause an immediate and negative reaction from the embassy staff but in the long run it might be the only way to get the job done.

Anonymous said...

how about New Zealand?

Anonymous said...

I have been thru the appeals process, it took 18 months and was ok, you are better off doing the appeal asap so the laws dont change again!
Basically, it is difficult to prove how you can support yourself and your Wife without recourse to public funds (If you live in Korea), I mean, if you had a saving of £5k, it will be visible that you will be able to cope with cost of living in uk for the time it will take for you to get a job.
When you get here, you will see that loads of people are unemployed and that causes a load of problems including stress, depression and family breakup.
I do hope your Wife is aware of how difficult life can be in a foriegn country and you may be working night shift and she day shift and hardly see eachother, how will it affect your relationship? how will she cope with not seeing her Mum and Phsycic Aunt?
Make a detailed plan including job search while you await your appeal.
I wish u well.

Mike said...

Thanks for the comments - we have now won our case and my wife has the visa in her hands.

A lot has gone on in the background and I'll write about that in a specific blog entry, but my MP's office were quite helpful and supportive, although I dare say they weren't so happy when I put it to them that I was a victim of Government policy.

My wife lived in the UK for seven years so she knows what to expect, but I don't think either of us care for the direction the country is heading in, so we know it's going to be tough and there will be tough choices to make in future - we'd like to find a better place to bring up children.

It's safe to say now that during the course of the British Government's fight against me, I gave considerable thought to finding another country to call home. After all, what else can you do if your own country won't let you live their with your wife? There are no easy choices because of my circumstances although my Irish heritage would possibly count for something if I had applied there. I'd seriously thought about New Zealand, but the consensus was leaning towards Canada if we needed to seriously investigate that option.

After everything we've been though this is not a closed subject, but the issue is less urgent than it would have been had we lost.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike

I'm so pleased to learn that you have at last been successful. My son is currently in Casablanca with his wife submitting the 'bundle', now with legal advice and representation. His solicitor came up with four points, one of which was that the BC had broken their own rules and another which cited Article 8. We won't know the outcome until June and they will have been married a year in July. The irony of all this is that I work with asylum seekers and refugees and my experience has been that the most deserving, often vulnerable women and children, are deported whereas some who freely admit that they are in the UK for the better life are granted leave to remain. Also, their wives are allowed to join them and seem to be able to get visas quite easily. I will never understand it.

Good luck for the future and have a happy life.

Mike said...


I hope your son and his wife are successful. I've certainly developed the opinion during my experience that there isn't a lot of consistency in the British immigration system.

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