I'm Spending Valentine's Day Without My Husband, Thanks To The Home Office

Our five-month-old baby has never met his dad, simply because the man I fell in love with isn’t from Europe. How can that be fair, asks Aisha Chimwaji.
Courtesy of the author
Courtesy of the author
HuffPost UK

If you’d told me that my husband and I would be spending our next Valentine’s Day thousands of miles apart, I’d have laughed. But if you had told me it would be because of rules put in place by my own government, I’d have been baffled. And angry.

I’m a trainee maths teacher. Maths is my passion – I’ve been a maths geek ever since I was at school, and now my dream is to teach secondary school maths. Too many young people say they hate maths, and I want to turn that around. At the moment, I’m retraining to pursue that dream. But my plans have been totally derailed, all because of who I fell in love with – and worse, my family is still split across two continents.

Moses and I met at a Bible school in Zambia. I’d been volunteering here in London to raise money for the school. When they invited me out for a visit, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. That’s when we met.

My friends had always asked me what I thought my future husband would look like. I never had any concrete ideas of how he’d look or how tall he’d be, but I knew what kind of person I’d marry: a loving, kind family man with dreams and a passion for travel. And that’s exactly who I found – he just happened to be in Zambia.

“Our son is now a gorgeous five-month-old. But because of unjust Home Office rules, he’s never been able to meet his dad.”

Moses and I connected instantly, and I knew straight away that he’d be the person I would spend my life with. It’s so strange; we were raised on two different continents, in two different cultures. On paper, everything about us is completely different. But we have the same dreams, and we want the same things for our lives – we’re even both passionate about maths!

We got married in Zambia in November 2018, with the plan to start a family together back in the UK. As it turned out, I got pregnant while I was still in Zambia. It was a tough pregnancy, and I was really unwell, so I came home to be closer to my mum and to make sure our baby would be delivered safely. That’s where everything started to go wrong.

Fast forward to today, and our son is now a gorgeous five-month-old. But because of unjust Home Office rules, he’s never been able to meet his dad. I’m having to raise our family alone, and my career has been put on hold indefinitely.

Because the person I fell in love with happens to be from outside Europe, our right to a life together depends not on the strength of our bond, but on something as arbitrary as my income. A Home Office policy called the Minimum Income Requirement dictates that I have to be earning £18,600 a year in order to live in the country I was born in, with a partner who was not.

Courtesy of the author
Courtesy of the author
HuffPost UK

When I discovered that my husband and I would be split up until I could prove I was earning that amount, I was forced to abandon my studies, shelve plans to teach maths, and go back to work – while our son was just a few months old. I managed to find a job that paid me exactly what I needed, working as a teaching assistant specialising in maths – but even then, the sums didn’t add up. I couldn’t juggle raising my family by myself and working, paying for eye-wateringly expensive childcare just so I could go out to work and try and earn the money so my husband can be here with us. If my husband was here, we’d be able to take turns looking after our family, and both work part-time. As it is, I’ve been forced to become a single parent, abandon my plans for career development and live on Universal Credit while I raise our son alone, for who knows how long.

We never imagined, not even in our worst nightmares, that we’d end up in this situation. Me and my husband haven’t seen each other since May, and it’s impossible to put into words how that feels. Even when we’re thousands of miles apart, we do loving things for each other every single day. But it’s no substitute for having him here, being able to start our lives as a family together.

Even something as simple as making Valentine’s Day plans – going to Scotland so Moses can see snow for the first time, or just sending the kids for a day at their grandparents’ so we can have some time to ourselves – is out of reach for us. Instead, I’m stressed every moment of the day, trying to bring up our child in the loving environment he deserves while worrying myself sick over how I will ever be able to get his dad here.

“No matter how you try, you just can’t put a price on my husband being there for our baby’s first steps.”

A system that separates families like mine achieves the exact opposite of anything positive. Your right to a family life depends on how much you earn – and if you don’t happen to earn that, you’re made to feel unworthy, almost criminal. Your entire life is judged according to an arbitrary figure plucked out of the air by Home Office bureaucrats who don’t seem to understand how the real world works.

Because no matter how you try, you just can’t put a price on my husband being there for our baby’s first steps, his first words, his first tooth coming through. It feels uncomfortable for me, someone born here and who’s only ever known this country, to be told by my own government that I don’t deserve that.

I thought marrying someone I love would push our lives forwards. Instead, because of the Minimum Income Requirement, they’re on hold. That, to me, just doesn’t add up.

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