A man who was blocked from joining his partner of 11 years in Britain because their utility bills were in different names has arrived in the country after a rapid Home Office U-turn.
At the end of October, BuzzFeed News revealed how Adam Armstrong, 34, from Adelaide in Australia, had applied for a visa to join his British boyfriend, Duke Westwood, 36, in Swansea. He sent a raft of evidence, but the Home Office rejected Armstrong’s application for a settlement visa as the partner of a British citizen on the grounds that it was “not satisfied” that their relationship was “akin to marriage”. The reason: a water bill and an energy bill they provided had only Westwood’s name on them.
Within four hours of BuzzFeed News contacting the Home Office to request a response to the story, the couple received an email saying the decision was being reviewed. Later that day, just 23 minutes after the article was published, the Home Office emailed again to say the decision to refuse the visa had been overturned and they could proceed with the application.
From there things moved quickly and when Armstrong’s passport was returned to him last week, five weeks after the article was published, he booked the earliest flight he could to join Westwood. He arrived at Birmingham airport on Wednesday.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News on speakerphone as they drove to Westwood’s home in Swansea, the pair were delighted. Armstrong said: “I’m still in shock. It still doesn’t seem real to me. It’s totally surreal but lovely and amazing. I think I was getting teary even before I got into the actual terminal. I can’t stop just touching him and saying ‘Yes, you’re actually here!’"
The couple met on Australian Myspace in June 2007 and started dating the following month in Adelaide. In February this year, Westwood returned to Britain to start work and assumed that Armstrong would soon be able to get a visa to join him because they met the earning threshold and had been together for 11 years.
Westwood said of their meeting in Birmingham’s arrivals hall after 10 months apart: “There were lots of hugs and kisses. It was just amazing. I was in shock, I had to pinch myself because what I’d been dreaming off for months and months has finally happened.”
Armstrong said their experience with the Home Office was “absolute hell”.
“It’s like your life is on hold, you can’t plan anything, you can’t do anything,” he said. “Even once they said they’d overturned the decision we got so used to hearing nothing that it was difficult to get excited until I actually saw him at the airport. This was my Christmas present. I get to see him for Christmas.”
The couple were on a video call when Armstrong’s passport arrived at the door. Westwood said: “After Adam got his passport back there was a massive sense of release that it had been done and there’d be no more delays. We were actually having a Skype chat when there was a knock on the door for Adam and then I looked at my phone and there was a message to say his passport was being returned. It’s absolutely the best Christmas present.”
Despite the good news, Westwood is still furious at the Home Office’s handling of cases. “I think it’s ludicrous really. There’s no accountability. Who knows how many other people out there who’ve been refused for reasons like that and given up. The appeals process adds on another year.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear since his first day in office that he wants a different approach to the immigration system which provides control, but is fair and humane.
“If evidence about a case comes to light then it will be considered by caseworkers, the fact that a case is covered in the media does not mean it will receive a favourable decision.”
Emily Dugan is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.