Next week I will see my wife. We were married in November 16', and since then we have spent just three weeks in the same hemisphere. Welcome to the heartbreaking true tale of modern Britain, and its visa and immigration system.
My wife and I never intended to marry, we were way too hip for that, we saw it as outdated, old fashioned and expensive. Why have a party we don't want with money we don't have for people we don't like? That's what Christmas is for. Lets put that money towards something we actually want, like holidays, or cheese.
But, she is an immigrant. Her working visa was coming to an end - and the options for us were two. Get married, or break up. Faced with this choice what could a young couple, in love, do? So you see, we didn't get married for the usual reasons people do... We got married because we are in love.
Even if we weren't in love I think we would have married anyway. Crushing loneliness is a great motivator and the alternative was too dark. Not marrying would mean banishing this person back to a country she sought refuge from. She would have to rebuild a life for herself in the searing heat under the watchful eye of the government.
Don't get me wrong, Australia is beautiful. And I ask myself regularly why we didn't relocate there. But we had built our lives, careers, relationships here and it is here we should like to stay. Plus If I wanted to spend time surrounded by tanned, athletic gorgeous humans with hilarious accents I'd go to any gym in Southend.
So, once married we can continue our lives together right? Wrong. This is when we discovered the true cost of love in Britain today. £18,600, specifically. If your spouse is from outside the E.U., that's the minimum you must earn for them to be granted a visa. If that seem's like an arbitrary figure, its because it is. It excludes approximately 40% of the population. If you work a minimum wage job, full time, you don't earn that much. If you're training to be a nurse, you don't earn that much. You're even less likely to earn that much as a woman, and even less as a person of colour. With this stipulation the message from the british government is clear: If you are young, working class, and plan on falling on love - go British.
Who would introduce such a short sighted policy? It was introduced in 2012, by a plucky young politician by the name of Theresa May. I don't know what happened to her, but I imagine she's feeling rather embarrassed about being responsible for an enormous mess that disproportionately effects working class people.
Unfortunately Love has no care for invisible borders or financial requirements, it selfishly floats about the ecosystem knocking people over and trashing the place like a teenager at a house party. And very much like a teenager at a house party, it destroys families. So thousands of families are left separated from each other.
Why this number of £18,600? Is it to guarantee that spouses don't arrive in the country and immediately claim benefits on the tax payers dime? I find the insinuation offensive, and if it were the true reason then a simple scan of my partners work history would prove she is clearly capable and willing to make a living for herself. But, aside from evidence that you are a real couple, no information about your spouse is requested at all in the application. None of their earnings are taken into account. For all the government cares she could be a potato with a smiley face drawn on. She has had her entire existence minimised and represented by the amount of money that I happened to make in a tax year. And for eight months, they branded her unworthy.
Can you imagine that? Getting married to the person you love, and then not seeing them for eight months? Birthdays, good news, hospital trips, all on the other side of the world. This means that in the first eight months of marriage I was only able to make love to my wife a handful of times. (Although having spoken to other married couples, apparently this is very normal). Brexiters take note, my wife left the single market and her position in Europe was not sustainable.
I'm fortunate in that I'm self employed. I have a good relationship with many employers, and should I need to I can call in favours, work twice as much, and over time, boost my earnings to a satisfactory level. So that's what I did. A fortnight ago, my wife's visa was approved. I can not wait to see her, and continue building the life we both want, in a country that barely wants us.
Liam Withnail: The Immigration Game is @ Heroes @ Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh, from Thu 3 - Sun 27 Aug 2017 (not Tue 15)