St Albans family just want their mum home for Christmas

TWO little boys just want one present at Christmas - their mum to be able to spend it with them at their grandfather’s home in St Albans.

Instead Sasha Claridge is being forced to live back in her native Moscow while a tangled tale of visa applications remains to be sorted out by the UK Border Agency.

The two boys born to Sasha and her husband Jeff, Brandon, six, and Shawn, four, have not seen their mother since early October and with just days until Christmas, their chances of spending it with her are looking bleak.

Sasha and Jeff married seven years ago and have spent time working in both Spain and in Thailand. On a number of occasions they have returned to visit Jeff’s father, Ted Claridge, 77, at his home in Marshalswick without having any visa problems.

But Ted is now widowed and they decided to return to this country to live with him - and that is when the family’s problems began.

Previously Ted had signed what is known as third party sponsorship to guarantee that his daughter-in-law would not claim anything from the UK benefits system during her stay.

But when the family wanted to return this year Ted discovered that third party sponsorship was no longer admissable and on the advice of a solicitor, Sasha applied for a family visa to speed up the process.

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After several weeks the application was returned because documents showing Sasha worked in Spain had not been translated into English. The family immediately resubmitted with the translated document but they have been left in limbo ever since waiting to hear if she can join them in St Albans.

In the meantime, Sasha is living with her family in Moscow and anxiously waiting to hear if she can be reunited with her children whom she is having to contact on Skype.

The boys in the meantime have started school but Jeff is unable to work because he is looking after them in his wife’s absence. What makes the situation even more frustrating is that they have no direct contact with the Border Agency but are having to do everything online.

Jeff said this week that the children were distraught at the prospect of spending Christmas without their mother. “It has been two months now and there have been lots of tears on Skype.”

He went on: “My wife has had visas for years and we were completely shocked when she was refused this time. We sent the family visa documents back to them two and a half weeks ago but they haven’t said yes or no.”

Jeff added: “This year has been so difficult. I have had an operation on my arm and she has had her thyroid removed and now we have getting a kick in the teeth from the Border Agency.”

If Sasha does not get her visa, they might try to travel to Barcelona to meet her there but Jeff said there was very little time left to organise anything. Even if the visa was granted, he was not sure his wife would be able to get to the UK from Moscow to be with her children for Christmas.

Ted added: “Everyone I have spoken to about it is appalled and can’t understand it. Sasha is desperate to get here and we are just hoping we hear something in the next couple of days.”

The UK Border Agency is dealing with the application under Sasha’s Russian name of Elena Rudneva and a spokesman said yesterday: “Ms Rudneva has made several visa applications but on each occasion has failed to supply the evidence to prove she qualifies.

“On one occasion an application for a visit visa was rejected because Ms Rudneva stated she intended to stay for much longer than the maximum six months allowed.”

He added: “Each application is considered on its merits taking into account all relevant information. Everyone applying for a visa must meet the requirements of the UK’s immigration rules. If they fail to do so, their application will be refused.”