Couple fight new immigration laws in bid to stay together
A central Somerset woman is vowing to fight new laws which she says will force her and her husband to live on two different continents.
Jan Louhichi, formerly Jan Grant, met her future husband Abdel while on holiday in Tunisia.
“I injured my shoulder and as part of my recovery, I took a cheap holiday in Tunisia,” she said.
“Abdel was a chef in the hotel I was staying in, and we just got on so well. We had to keep it quiet at first, because he wasn’t allowed to fraternise with the guests.
“It was a case of love at first sight.”
The couple married four months after they first met, and began to plan their future in England together.
“It made sense for him to relocate to England,” said Jan.
“Tunisia is a beautiful country, but it’s hard to make a living there.”
But the couple’s plans were quashed when in July this year the British Government introduced new restrictions on the visa laws.
Mr Louhichi will not be given clearance to stay in the UK unless Jan earns £18,600 a year, or has £16,000 in savings.
The new rules were bought into play shortly after the couple’s wedding, and were expected to cut immigration, currently standing at 250,000 a year, by 25,000.
They were also designed to combat claims that some foreigners are marrying Britons to take advantage of the UK’s generous welfare system.
Home Secretary Theresa May said earlier this year that it was obvious that British citizens and those settled here should be able to marry or enter into a civil partnership with whomever they choose.
But she added: “If they want to establish their family life in the UK, rather than overseas, then their spouse or partner must have a genuine attachment to the UK, be able to speak English, and integrate into our society, and they must not be a burden on the taxpayer.
“Families should be able to manage their own lives.
“If a British citizen or a person settled here cannot support their foreign spouse or partner they cannot expect the taxpayer to do it for them.”
But critics of the system say it is an “anti-family” policy that does not take into account regional incomes, cost of living and differentiating incomes between men and women.
Mrs Louhichi, who owns The Wardrobe clothing shop in Glastonbury, says that with the current economic climate, she simply isn’t making that much money.
“I am doing everything I can to save the money – as well as running the shop during the day, I’m also using online auction sites to try and get some more money behind us, but with things as they are at the moment, it’s just not been possible to get that amount of money saved up.
“Of course, the irony is that if Abdel could come and work here, he is a qualified pâtissier who would probably earn more than I could and we would definitely be able to pay our own way and support ourselves.”
The couple have been relying on Skype to stay in touch with each other.
“It’s something, but it’s obviously not ideal,” admits Jan.
“Especially as the connection in Tunisia isn’t that great and it keeps cutting in and out.”
Jan says new government policy is deeply unfair, and is a member of several Facebook groups supporting people caught in the same situation as her.
She says she will continue to campaign for changes in the law, and has sent a Christmas card to both Theresa May and David Cameron featuring a photograph of herself and her husband, as well as other couples who have been separated by the new policy.
In the card, they ask them to spare a thought for those who cannot be together this Christmas, due to government policy.
She is also urging people to sign an online petition calling on the Government to reconsider the new immigration laws.
“At the moment, we are both trying to stay strong, taking part in the consultation and review process of the policy and hoping that for some miraculous reason, the government will change their mind on the policy and we can be together,” she said.
Click here to find the online petition to change UK immigration laws.