Immigration battle goes on for Newport couple facing seperation

Stephen and Arlene Watty of Hemsby are facing an immigration battle after the Home Office claimed th

Stephen and Arlene Watty of Hemsby are facing an immigration battle after the Home Office claimed they do not earn enough for Arlene to stay in this country. The couple pictured on their wedding day in 2012. - Credit: Archant

A Filipino woman fighting to stay with her husband in the UK has vowed to continue - and join a bigger battle for a change in immigration laws.

After their story appeared in last weeks’ Mercury, Stephen and Arlene Watty have been overwhelmed with more support from the public. More than 400 people had already signed a petition backing the couple who have been told by the Home Office that, despite being married and both working full time, Arlene does not qualify to stay in the UK.

Arlene, 45, moved to the UK from the Philippines in 2009 on a student visa and now works as a carer at a residential home in Hemsby. She met Stephen in 2010 and helped the 50-year-old, who at the time had depression and alcohol dependency, to turn his life around.

She applied for leave to remain - the common route for foreign nationals who marry British citizens - in November 2012 after the couple were married.

But the application was refused after the Home Office ruled they did not earn enough. Even after Stephen started up his own company, they lost their appeal.

The couple, who were told that Stephen could move to the Philippines if they wanted to stay together, are now in the process of appealing again and have vowed to fight on, taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights if need be.

“All we want is to be together and we’re not giving up,” said Stephen, who runs his own fencing and patio company.

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“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support,” added Arlene.

“Just last night a man we’d never met called the house and said he wanted to support us.

“There are so many people in this situation. I was fighting for us but now I am fighting for everyone in this situation.”

The Home Office received Arlene’s application to appeal on February 17 and the couple are now waiting to hear if they can argue their case again.

In the meantime, the couple plan to campaign for fairer immigration rules.

Last year, a High Court presiding over a case of a Lebanese couple from the Midlands found the rules requiring a minimum income of at least £18,600 for spouse visa applications were ‘unjustified and disproportionate’ - a ruling that has given Stephen and Arlene hope.

“I understand the need to be careful and unfortunately some people do try and deceive the government,” said Arlene.

“But this rule needs changing.”

Stephen’s brother, George, has moved to Great Yarmouth from Essex to be closer to his family while the immigration fight continues.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that the Border Agency is doing this to them,” said George.

“My sister in law works and pays her taxes and has done since she arrived in this country. Both she and my brother work very hard not just for themselves, but for their community.”

Commenting on the case, a spokesman for the Home Office previously said: “The decision to refuse the application was made in line with the immigration rules.

“The Home Office considers each application to remain in the UK on its individual merits and according to the evidence provided.”