My girlfriend & business partner has been refused a visa. What can I do?
July 23, 2015 5:19 PM   Subscribe

My Colombian girlfriend/partner has just been refused a visa to come to the UK (this is the refusal letter). More details inside, but in short – she was here for a couple of years. She bought a return ticket to London for two reasons: we're launching the app in Edinburgh that we built together together and it's our 1 year anniversary. She got refused visa today. What can I do?!

I founded a small company in the UK. Last year I hired a Colombian who was, at the time, doing a masters degree in the UK, paid for by an education grant (more on that later).

August 2014: we started dating.
December 2014: we moved to NYC together.
July 2015: she moved back to Colombia under the terms of her grant

Our plan is to have her come to London on August 4th. We'll take a trip up to Edinburgh on August 7th and launch the app that we've built together at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. On Aug 10th we want to celebrate our one-year anniversary together under the same stone archway under which we first kissed.

On August 28th we're set to move to Colombia together. I plan on living there for the next 5 years with her. We both have tickets – hers a return trip from Colombia to the UK and back, mine from the UK to Colombia. The same flight as hers.

Her grant is an attempt to stop the "brain drain" from Colombia to other countries. It covered her education in the UK, but she has to pay back if she doesn't live in Colombia for 5 years. It's worth $25,000. So that's a pretty big deal.

So, she has a $25k reason to move back to Colombia. I'm moving with her. We've been sharing photos of apartments there for months. We've also hired two Colombians, who we will be working with once we get to Colombia.

WHAT CAN I DO NOW? I can prove we are in a relationship, that I'm moving to Colombia with her (on the same flight), that she works for me, that we're launching our app, that we've hired Colombians...

Who do I call?
posted by omnigut to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry – I'm a British citizen. That's probably an important point. And I'm in London at the moment.
posted by omnigut at 5:21 PM on July 23, 2015

So sorry to hear you're having this trouble. The refusal letter is very clear in what she needs to provide - she needs to provide evidence of her intent to return to Colombia. It's unclear what was provided before, but it's apparently insufficient.

It sounds like the things you have already are a good start and good evidence:

The education grant and terms of that grant that require her to return to Colombia is good evidence of that. Does she have anything in collateral that's given to the state in exchange to ensure she returns? Show evidence of that.

It sounds like bank accounts, proof of residency in Colombia, things like that are helpful. Evidence of her ticket back on August 28th will also be helpful. Evidence of her self employment - whatever business she may own back home in Colombia.

You want to get this together as soon as possible and reapply for an expedited visa if you want to make your dates, but also start mentally preparing to celebrate your anniversary in Colombia instead.
posted by Karaage at 5:34 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Basically you need to reapply with all the evidence. I mean ALL the evidence of everything you say, that this is a temporary visit, that she has work in Columbia she will be returning to Columbia & a set date for when she will be returning. Proof she has ties to Columbia. a mortgage or lease on an apartment, Colombian bank accounts with enough money in to support herself on while she's in the UK, you are paying her income AND you are her romantic partner, think how that looks to a bunch of suspicious bastards. Proof of employment (or being a student), affidavits from people she works with/for, proof of her own income separate from you if that exists. Do you have dates set up for the presentation, include that information.

From Immigration POV she has returned to Columbia for less than 6 weeks (at the most) that doesn't look like she's returned home for anything other than a visit. You need to think of any single thing you have that can prove she has returned home. That her visit back to the UK is just for a short time for work & that she will be returning back. Seriously anything, drown them in paperwork, make copies of everything. Personally downplaying your relationship & overplaying the it's for work is probably the way to go, the second you mix romance in it Immigration get even more suspicious.

Good luck.
posted by wwax at 5:50 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in the US, not the UK but it'd be the same answer both places: call an immigration lawyer for help, and the best one you can get. Even if you stick to the current plan of moving to Colombia for now, the lawyer can help you two set things up for the future.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2015

the second you mix romance in it Immigration get even more suspicious.

Yeeeah. Nthing that you need to drown the authorities in "compelling new evidence" that she really doesn't want to stay in the UK and is raring to do SRS BSNS back in Colombia, but you also have to factor in the possibility of her being refused again, because elections.
posted by holgate at 6:33 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

yes to Karaage and wwax's posts. Unfortunately this late in the day a re-application is going to be pretty suspicious looking. That was all information she should've submitted already - was there a reason she didn't? If she was living in the UK and only returned to Colombia for a short visit then I think UK immigration are actually totally correct in calling her out on it not appearing like she plans on returning after the visit. Even someone who doesn't need a visa for a short visit (i.e. an Australian like me) would get absolutely grilled at immigration and have a good chance of refusal of entry if they presented with that kind of background and without clear evidence of compelling reasons to return after the trip to their home country.

Hopefully someone else will have advice but I think you need to be prepared to celebrate your anniversary elsewhere.
posted by kitten magic at 7:26 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who IS trying to game the system-- i.e. who purchased a return ticket and intends to stay and eat the cost. What distinguishes her? Does she have records showing that she gave up an apartment, made an international move, any kinds of bills in Colombia?

Make sure you stress that she's returning to the UK *as your employee* to assist you in moving your company to Colombia. That's why she's staying for such a long time. Never mention that you're dating.
posted by acidic at 8:49 PM on July 23, 2015

Be careful about the "working" aspect as well -- there are rules as to what you can and cannot do work-wise on a visitor visa.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:51 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Absolutely talk to your local MP (and by talk, I mean write a letter, maybe phone). Set out your case clearly to them, and they may well be able to help you. MPs vary in their effectiveness, but they can be very helpful, because they (or their staff) will know the right people to talk to, and be able to apply pressure on your behalf.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:16 AM on July 24, 2015

omnigut, the refusal letter is quite clear about what she needs to do to obtain a visa next time and I hardly see how this is feasible in two weeks. I'm skeptical about the possibility of a visa being granted so soon after a first rejection.

Given that you were planning to move to Columbia at the end of August anyway (one month from now!), I think you should change your summer plans, launch your App in Edinburgh then fly out to Columbia to celebrate your anniversary.

Whichever it goes, good luck with your project and your relationship!
posted by Kwadeng at 12:44 AM on July 24, 2015

Response by poster: Okay, we've gathered a letter of support from my company, pay slips, I've added a copy of my return flight details (showing that we're on the same booked flight back to Colombia) and I've tried to get a letter from the managers of the business accelerator we're hopefully working out of when we first arrive.

She's putting together the documents about her grant and her ticket back to Colombia. She has gotten bank statements from her account in Colombia (although she doesn't have much there, most of her money is in her UK bank account unfortunately).

She also has a company out there, who will hopefully write a letter stating that she's needed in Colombia. And we're about to talk to an immigration lawyer.

But, she lives with her parents at the moment, so no mortgage or apartment.

Fingers crossed, and thanks for all the help! I'll post a photo of us holding the Edinburgh Times with the correct date if it all works :)
posted by omnigut at 4:33 AM on July 24, 2015

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