Big day joy for couple thanks to MP's visa help at 11th hour
Caroline Dirk was desperate when it looked like visa problems in South Africa would prevent her husband Rashied from being at the repeat wedding celebrations of their big day with family and friends in Shepton Mallet.
The couple were married in Cape Town last year.
But Caroline and her parents Anne and David Jordan had been planning a celebration on August 26 at Kilver Court for many relatives and friends who were unable to attend the overseas nuptials.
As the big day drew nearer, and there was still no news on a visa, Caroline feared she would be attending the reception without her husband at her side.
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David visited one of Tessa Munt MP's surgeries at Shepton Mallet and asked her if she could help.
Tessa contacted Immigration Minister Damian Green who in turn contacted the British High Commission in Pretoria, and Rashied's visa was approved just two days before the couple's long-planned reception at Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet.
"I was absolutely devastated to think Rashied would not be there for the celebrations. I thought I'd be at the reception on my own without him. I was just so desperate and I had just about given up all hope. But then when I heard his visa had finally been approved, thanks to Tessa's intervention, I was crying tears of joy," said Caroline.
"We are just so grateful to her and her team for what they did. It was only thanks to her help and persistence that the visa came through in time. Rashied got his visa through on the Friday, he arrived at Heathrow on the Saturday and our reception went ahead on the Sunday."
And the reunited couple invited Tessa and her partner David Banwell to join them on the top table at their celebrations, where they presented the MP with a bouquet of flowers.
Caroline, aged 28, a physiotherapist from Gurney Slade, and Rashied, aged 33, an IT Support Analyst from Cape Town, were married at a Muslim ceremony followed by a civil ceremony in Cape Town in July last year, surrounded by close family and friends.
But Caroline and her mum, Anne, had set their hearts on a repeat celebration back home for everyone who could not attend the South African wedding.
The couple had applied back in May for Rashied's visa to allow him to come to the UK, aware it could take up to 90 days to be approved.
The date was already fixed for their celebration back home for August 26 which they thought was plenty of time for the paperwork to come through.
Caroline flew home at the end of July to finalise the plans.
But as the days went on and no visa came through her fears grew.
"We kept contacting the British High Commission in Pretoria to see if they could speed the process up and prioritise Rashied's visa – but they said there was nothing they could do. Thank heavens for Tessa stepping in to help."
Tessa Munt told the Journal she was delighted to be invited to the couple's celebrations. And she added: "I was so pleased to help Caroline and Rashied be together for their special day. Occasions like this can be stressful enough without having a battle to obtain a visa.
"I was able to speak a few times with the Immigration Minister at the time, Damian Green MP, who then put pressure on the Border Agency to make sure Rashied's perfectly valid and straight forward visa application was completed in time.
"There were literally hours in it by the end – so it was pretty nail-biting for everyone.
"I wish them both the best for their future life together."