10 December 2009

Spouse of Briton considered too young for UK Visa

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A young married couple has lost a High Court battle against a UK Government immigration policy aimed at combating forced marriages.

The loss of the case has meant Amber Aguilar, 18, from north London, will have to live abroad with her Chilean husband Diego Andres Aguilar Quila, 19 until they reach 21 and are able to apply for a UK Visa.

The UK immigration policy requires both partners in a marriage to be 21 before a visa can be issued to a foreign national, although previously once a woman reached 18 she would have been entitled to apply to have her husband live with her in the UK.

Amber Aguilar met and married her husband while he was a student, but were unable to apply for a further visa when his UK Student Visa expired because of the new immigration policy which took effect five days after their marriage in November last year.

Their representative Christopher Jacobs argued the teenagers were being penalised by the Home Office because they would not allow exceptions in cases where marriages plainly had not been forced and that it was a violation of the couple's right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Justice Burnett ruled that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, had not acted irrationally and upheld submissions by the Government that it was not "disproportionate" to require couples to live abroad for a period of time to meet a policy with "the legitimate and important aim of combating forced marriages".

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) brought the test case, and described the couple as unlucky victims and that the Government's inflexibility was "tearing families apart".

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their UK Visa applications at the British Embassy.  

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