‘Our lives are at the mercy of somebody in Colombia’ – South Shields family will be torn apart by visa blow

VISA BLOW ... John Dennis with wife Ana Maria and their daughter Victoria.
VISA BLOW ... John Dennis with wife Ana Maria and their daughter Victoria.

A FAMILY living in South Tyneside could be torn apart for months because of a visa battle blow.

John Dennis is facing the heartbreak of having to spend months without his Panamanian-born wife, Ana Maria Paz Ramos de Dennis, and their four-year-old daughter, Victoria.

The plight facing the family, of Ferry Approach in South Shields, was reported in the Gazette last month after Mrs Dennis was refused a permanent visa on the grounds that her husband does not earn enough – despite him producing bank statements to prove his income is above the Government-set threshold of £18,600 a year.

She is now only allowed to stay in the country until April, and she will have to have to fly back to Panama and have her visa application accepted before she can return to live with her husband.

Mr Dennis, 50, owner of Lean Six Sigma Training, a company set up to help businesses operate more efficiently, said: “Ana and Vicki both have to return to Panama in April, and we have to resubmit the visa application.

“I’ve been told that I should wait until I have filed my taxes in March and can show that I made more than the £18,600 minimum income by sending them a copy of my tax return.

“It may take up to two months for the process in Panama because they only have one meeting per month to accept applications, then it is sent from Panama to Colombia.

“It’s processed in Colombia and then the decision is mailed back to Panama.

“Our family life and Vicki’s education is now at the mercy of somebody in Colombia who is looking to make sure we ticked all the right boxes.”

Mr Dennis met his wife, 41, while he was working in Panama as a consultant in 2009.

Their daughter Victoria was born in Panama in 2010, and they married in 2012.

Mr Dennis, originally from Fulwell in Sunderland, and his new wife decided they would have a better family life in England, prompting their move to South Shields.

The move also meant that Mr Dennis could be closer to his 80-year-old mother, Audrey, whose husband, Norman, a sociologist, died four years earlier.

After moving to South Tyneside in April last year, Victoria, a British passport holder, settled in happily at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, and Mrs Dennis, an airline worker in Panama, began the process of applying for a permanent visa.

The couple had to travel to Panama to hand over the documents.

Mr Dennis added: “When I got my visa in the US in 1996, there was a very good process.

“I was invited for an interview in Jacksonville, Florida, and they asked me sensible questions about where I was working and things like that.

“There seems to be no allowance for common sense or allowing me to meet anyone in immigration and speak to them face to face.

“It is all using websites and third-party companies that are hired to do the processing on behalf of the government.

“This hasn’t all really sunk in properly because they haven’t had to go yet, but when they do, I can’t imagine how I’ll feel.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution.

“Our family rules are designed to make sure that those coming to the UK to join their spouse or partner will not become a burden on the taxpayer and will be well enough supported to integrate effectively.

“Ms Ramos’s application was refused because she did not submit the necessary evidence to support her application.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki