St Albans couple fearful for unborn child amid visa delays
PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:01 10 August 2017
A desperate St Albans couple is living in constant fear while a bureaucratic nightmare endangers their unborn child's life.
Local resident David Kiff, 32, met Chinese national Wanwan Qiao, 27, in April last year and fell so deeply in love they married seven months later.
After the wedding, Mrs Kiff applied for a spousal visa, and assumed the application would be straight forward - she has lived in Britain for three years and they believed the Home Office had already run checks to satisfy it was not a sham marriage.
The first application was refused based on a miscommunication about income, but David has now provided proof that the family earn over the required threshold.
Wanwan is now 34 weeks pregnant and has heard little news on the next application. Throughout pregnancy, while visas are processed by the Home Office, immigrants have no access to NHS treatment.
People using a premium service can get a decision on their visa application in 24 hours - David and Wanwan have been waiting seven months.
She has had to carry the baby without any NHS help, and now only six weeks away from labour, the couple is facing the daunting prospect of paying around £10,000 to cover costs of visiting an NHS hospital when the child arrives.
The couple has already paid thousands for private checks and scans - including £1,800 in solicitor costs, £2,000 for antenatal care, £1,200 for scans, and £2,100 for the elusive visa.
A complaint David lodged, dated June 1, describes the rules as “disgusting”: “My wife lost over 5kgs due to her morning sickness, although I couldn’t persuade her to seek medical attention, because she was worried about the unknown NHS costs. She has recently had a few pains in her stomach and again is unable to get this checked out, due to unknown costs.
“You have in fact bribed us and informed us if we use the NHS and run up a huge unknown bill, then if we do not pay, you deport my wife, since you will use it against her when we apply for a visa.”
David has filed numerous complaints with their case worker, and Gov.uk procedure states the Home Office aims to respond to complaints within 20 days.
“It kills us that you use this red tape to purely destroy the lives of innocent people and tear apart young families like ours.
“It’s horrific to be told to wait for months on end without any update to when this process will come to a close, living every day in fear.
“We can not enjoy our lives whilst you hold this over us and it is having a huge impact on the quality of our lives. We are meant to be celebrating and enjoying pregnancy, not living through a nightmare.”
While the visa is processed, Wanwan has also had to regularly travel an hour on the bus to visit the closest police station - a difficult journey for an increasingly pregnant woman.
He told the Herts Ad the couple feel “in limbo”: “I am not hopeful at all, I have spoken to [St Albans MP] Anne Main but she is powerless to act.
“We both go through stages of being pretty upset about it and just think about the worse case scenario - they could send her back to China.
“What happens if they send her back? What happens to the baby?”
With nowhere to go in China, Wanwan and the baby would have to live on the street, David says.
A spokesperson from the Home office says: “Ms Qiao’s application for leave to remain is under consideration. We recommend that applicants seek independent immigration advice on their case.”