‘It is important to note that simply marrying in the United Kingdom, does not automatically confer the right to remain in the United Kingdom as a spouse or civil partner and does not alter an applicant’s immigration status’
quote from Immigration Advisor website.
If you live or have ever lived in Cambridge you will recognise this lamp-post. It is called ‘reality checkpoint’. I don’t really know why this is… perhaps on a dark night when the fenland fog rolls in it provides a helpful signpost to the lost or drunk: ‘this is the middle of Parker’s Piece’. It is at the crossroads of two paths across a green space on the edge of town – university one way and residential Mill Rd the other: perhaps that is a good place to check on reality for some of the students living in their ancient, protected environment. My clearest memory of it is from very early on in my relationship with Martin when I was ‘assisting’ him home after a football dinner… looking back that time of happiness and carefree new love in the beautiful East Anglian city seems more of a dream than the harsh reality we find ourselves in now.
The UK Border Agency is our gateway to the world. Those of us with an EEC passport probably hardly notice it except for those annoying queues at the airport when we return from holidays. We have had some challenging experiences with immigration officers in the US from time to time, but home is a safe place, isn’t it? Unless you are trying to enter from elsewhere, of course. When Jessa arrived at Manchester airport on 14th April the boot was on the other foot – it was totally amazing that she was allowed in at all when we look back on it! It was our very own experience of ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. Similarly when we all travelled to Menorca she had to fill in a landing card to get into Spain (non EEC passport) and it took some time and explaining to get back into the UK as well.
With all the excitement of recent weeks, their engagement and new flat, I suppose we have put all that officialdom on the back burner while Sam and Jessa begin to make their life together… But, as I said, I woke up on Friday with the reality check: Jessa’s visa only allows her to stay for 6 months – and she is not supposed to get married during that time!
We had all been so busy rejoicing that the requirement for a ‘certificate of approval to marry’ has been abolished – just for us! just last month! – we didn’t check the small print. Assuming this meant that once married it would all be OK, we even got as far as making an appointment at Leicester Registry office – not until September mind, because of the high demand since the abolition of the certificate of approval – oh maybe not just for us then… But surely after that they could live happily ever after in the UK? Welcome to the world of the asylum seeker and refugee!
Unless Jessa can extend her visa on compassionate grounds she will have to leave in October, married or not. She doesn’t have the option to swap straight over to a spouse’s visa unless she keeps to the conditions of her current one – the rule that says you have to leave after 6 months or become an illegal immigrant. If she risked that they would never let her in again. I guess we need specialist advice and a lot of cash! I certainly need a super-injection of peace – and wisdom: visas – and return flights to the US – cost £££ 😦
Reality checkpoint. What to do, which way to turn in the fog of emotion, the daze of official-eze?
‘This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…” Jeremiah 6v16
So here I am, at reality checkpoint, looking back down the road once more, asking for the good way. It’s that point of decision again – not knowing which is the right direction, but seeking first for the peace and rest as I wait on the Lord and being led by that. It’s too easy to panic, to succumb to stress and distress: I have to choose to believe again that He is in control – He knew about this all along! – and I can trust Him.
It’s been a rocky few days since Friday. We had just about committed to purchasing the little house round the corner for Sam and Jessa to live in – despite the sacrifice I wrote about last time. The thought that Jess might not actually be here threw all that up in the air again: could Sam manage if he was on his own? Should we proceed with such a big and expensive venture? Then we decided we would anyway… Then I found the quote at the top of this post and got cold feet again… Our decision to invest has been sorely tested – maybe we have made a foolish choice?
The only place of peace is that ancient crossroads, the point where we can check on the reality we cannot see, the Reality that is bigger and more permanent that this one, the light in the darkness, pointing the way and giving rest for our souls in the most trying times.
So – that is where I am standing today.