Laws keep couple apart: Immigration laws in United States, United Kingdom separate newlyweds
Whether reminiscing on the past or daydreaming about the future, few things represent the state of happiness more than being united with the person you love.
Now imagine the government telling you youâre not rich enough to feel that happiness any longer.
That is how British musician Jake Quincey describes his situation after living thousands of miles apart from his wife, 2010 Columbus North High School graduate Angela Owens, for the past eight months.
While U.S. immigration policies are frequently debated in national forums, few Americans may be aware that other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have their own controversies.
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For example, itâs been required since 2012 that a British citizen must earn a minimum of Â£18,600 per year ($24,408 U.S.) before their non-European Union spouse can apply to live wi th them in the United Kingdom.
About 40 percent of employed Brits, including Quincey, donât earn enough to meet that threshold, according to a November article in The Independent, a London-based online newspaper.
A government report released a month earlier indicated only one in six British workers earning less than Â£9 an hour ($11.79 U.S.) has managed to push themselves up the pay ladder in the past 10 years and stay there. Most remain stuck in a cycle of part-time and insecure jobs, the UK Social Mobility Commission reported.
Itâs not just low pay for low-skill jobs. Tech salaries in the UK have dropped 17 percent over the past three years, according to a February study by the British job website Hired.
As of last winter, a tech worker in London can expected to earn an average salary equivalent to $78,000, compared to $113,000 in Chicago, the website reported.
No fairy tale
While Owens, 27, calls Quincey âmy Prin ce Charming,â she said being barred from residency in her husbandâs home country isnât any womanâs idea of a storybook romance.
In 2016, Owens traveled to England to complete her undergraduate degree in theatre arts from the University of Kent in Canterbury, just southeast of London.
The man who would eventually become her husband was the leader of his own rock blues band, Jake Quincey and the Big Rad Wolf. The two felt an immediate attraction when they met backstage after a band performance.
When Quincey, 26, and Owens had their first date in November 2016, they spent the evening eating fish and chips while watching âRick & Mortyâ cartoons, Owens said.
After Owens mentioned how much she missed the guitar she left behind in Indiana, âI saw an opportunity to see her again,â Quincey said.
He not only lent her one of his guitars, but agreed to give her lessons, he said.
As they spent time together, Owens learned that Quin cey, a 2008 graduate of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury, had long been preparing himself for the music business.
After investing three years majoring in media studies and music at Canterbury College, Quincey devoted an additional year earning a higher diploma in professional musicianship from the London Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in 2012.
Upon discovering that Quincey also writes both music and lyrics to all of his bandâs recorded original songs, Owens was impressed.
âWhile we were trying to take our relationship slow, we kept wanting to see more and more of each other,â Owens said. âNot only were we bonding over arts and music, but found out we had similar lifestyles and personalities.â
Inheriting a soulful singing voice of her own from parents who frequently sang at venues in Columbus, Owens often provided vocals to Quinceyâs band at various pubs and nightclubs while completing her studies in the United Kingdom.
By the time she earned her bachelorâs degree on July 10, 2017, the coupleâs relationship had fully blossomed. After graduation, they occasionally discussed making a commitment to one another while in England or vacationing in other European countries.
But since both understood the potential complications, neither seemed willing to be the first to âpop the question,â Owens said.
Back in Indiana
When her student visa expired, Owens was forced to leave Europe and returned to Indiana on Sept. 27, 2017. But to her delight, Quincey was able to obtain a tourist visa that allowed him to accompany her.
The two split their time in either Schererville in northwest Indiana with her mother, Sandy Parker Owens, or in Columbus with her father, Mark Owens.
But like most couples, it was the moments they were alone that seemed most special. It was on Nov. 9, as they watched a romantic sunset together on the edge of Lake Michigan, t hat Quincey proposed marriage and Owens agreed.
A month later, the outdoor wedding took place on Dec. 6 at Brown County State Park in a ceremony officiated by Owensâ Columbus North drama teacher, John Johnson.
But less than two weeks after the wedding, Quincey was forced to return to England without his bride when his tourist visa expired.
Their original plan was for Quincey to find as much steady work as possible in Canterbury to lift his income above the threshold and have his wife return to England no later than April, Owens said.
The newlywed groom actively sought full-time employment, accepted a job as a chef, gave guitar lessons, and tried to book more paying gigs for his band, he said.
âBut as much as Iâve tried, Iâm not even close to meeting that income requirement,â Quincey said.
Efforts to find other pathways to allow the couple to live together in England have not been fruitful.< p>At one time, the U.K. government would have allowed Quinceyâs family members to serve as sponsors for Owens, but that option was eliminated about two years ago, he said.
As he watched the world celebrate the May marriage of Britainâs Prince Harry to American Meghan Markle, Quincey couldnât help comparing his situation to the royal couple. That same month, he started a Twitter-based campaign against the wealth-based visa system that has already attracted nearly 2,300 followers.
It was through people who shared their experiences on social media that Quincey said he discovered the U.K. policies are hurting others worse than him.
The system is extra cruel to Brits who suddenly canât work full time due to a medical problem or a need to serve as a temporary caregiver for an ailing relative, he said.
âIf you are married to a foreigner, but unable to work around the clock, the government will simply take your spouse away,â Quincey said.
Wh en a foreign spouse has children, the amount of money required for visas goes up substantially, he said.
In 2015, the Childrenâs Commissioner in the U.K. reported that up to 15,000 children are affected by this rule, most of whom are British citizens.
Why not Indiana?
When asked why they arenât seeking residency in the U.S., both Owens and Quincey admit their preference for the U.K.
âEngland is our home,â said Owens after explaining that both have an established support system made up of family and friends in Canterbury.
In addition, Quincey would be prohibited from seeking employment for a year if he moved to Indiana. Since both he and his wife are in artistic professions, itâs doubtful they could obtain adequate and affordable medical insurance, Owens said.
While she is healthy, Owens does have a medical condition that will always require ongoing professional care, she said.
During his three months in Indiana last fall, Quincey said he learned Hoosiers arenât nearly as anti-immigrant as British media reports had led him to believe.
âAt least not with an Englishman like myself,â he said.
But prolonged waiting times and multiple interview requirements for American citizens and their foreign-born spouses does suggest an anti-immigrant sentiment, Quincey said.
The couple said they understand a number of U.S. policies are intended to weed out marriages made for personal gain or other strategic purposes.
âBut itâs almost like you are considered guilty of being in a marriage of convenience until you can prove youâre not,â Quincey said.
Since the couple has not ruled out living in Indiana in the future, they are attempting to be cautious in their public remarks regarding the U.S. government, they said.
But what Owens and Quincey will say is that by being married to each other, both are being made to feel like foreigners by their own countries.
The best solution theyâve come up with is to move to a country that isnât home to either of them.
Owens flew to London on Aug. 13 on a temporary guest visa to be reunited with Quincey. Since then, she has been visiting with his family members who were unable to attend last Decemberâs wedding, according to her father.
But by the end of this month, the couple will be moving to Dublin, Ireland, and begin applying for teaching jobs before fall classes begin in October, Mark Owens said.
âAs a Brit, I have all the same rights in the Republic of Ireland as an Irish person,â Quincey said.
While there are no guarantees of success in Dublin, Quincey said his wife will be able to get a five-year residency permit.
Long known for its strong independent arts scene and appreciation of literature, Dublin offers employment and educational opportunities not available in either of the ir respective countries, Owens said.
While she calls Dublin âfantastic,â Quincey said he sees Irish residency as the quickest, easiest and cheapest path toward creating a âhappily-ever-afterâ with his bride.Pull Quote
âNot only were we bonding over arts and music, but found out we had similar lifestyles and personalities.â
â" Jake Quincey on meeting Angela Owens of ColumbusSource: Google News United Kingdom | Netizen 24 United Kingdom