An American woman says she has ‘been to hell and back’ trying to get a spouse visa so she can live with her ‘soulmate’ husband in Wales. The Home Office has twice rejected Ellen Alvarez, 65,’s request to live with her partner, John Delahunty, 70, whom she married in October 2020.
Friends of the love couple – who first struck up an online romance – dubbed them ‘the Gavin and Stacey International’. But now the threat of eviction hangs over Ms Alvarez, leaving her worried that her idyllic life with her husband in Barry will be ‘ripped away’ from her.
She is now preparing to fight for her cause in a court hearing. Rejection letters from Home Office officials to Ms Alvarez, seen by WalesOnline, say she does not qualify for the visa and there is no evidence of ‘insurmountable obstacles’ that the couple would face if they moved to the United States.
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But Ms Alvarez believes she has met the requirements and says it is not possible for them to move to the United States, where she no longer has a home, job or health insurance. “I feel like I’m in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from,” said Ms. Alvarez, a retired children’s librarian. “I love Barry so much, it’s such a beautiful place…I feel like I’m being treated like a criminal wanting to come here.”
Ms. Alvarez and Mr. Delahunty, a retired transit police officer, first met through mutual friends on Facebook. They helped each other through their troubled marriages and slowly their romance began to blossom.
‘At a time when my best friend was going through too many of her own issues, I reached out to John because I was thinking about ending it all,’ Ms Alvarez wrote in a moving letter to be considered at the next hearing. .
“From then on, we were always there for each other when the chips fell, albeit across the pond. We would share our love of animals and music and take pleasure to make the other smile!Little by little without even knowing it we fell in love!
She first visited Mr Delahunty in October 2019, before returning to America to sign a divorce from her ex-husband and eventually returned to Wales in January 2020. As part of the divorce settlement, Mrs. Alvarez did not obtain the agreement of her ex-husband. house, so she has no property where she and Mr. Delahunty could live if they were forced to move.
Ms. Alvarez is also estranged from her mother, who is her only family member, while Mr. Delahunty has close family members. “I don’t have family in America…I don’t want to take him away from his granddaughter and his two sons,” she said. “It made a lot more sense for me to come here.”
Mr Delahunty knelt down to propose to Ms Alvarez on the promenade at Barry Island on July 2, 2020, and they married on October 8 of the same year – courtesy of the Home Office itself. even, she said.
“When we applied we found out that we had to provide certain documents and answer questions individually at an office in Cardiff to get permission from the Home Office to get married. At no point was it mentioned that my status was ‘precarious’ and we received a notification that we could book our wedding at the Barry Office.”
On October 13 of that year, she began the process of obtaining a spousal visa and she submitted her application in January 2021. In May of last year, she had to provide her fingerprints in the part of the process, and she claims to have been provided by the Home Office. biometric contractor that it was likely she would get the visa.
“We really don’t understand why we were first allowed to get married and then told everything was in order when I did my final biometrics. I was insured by the ministry’s own contractor of the Interior that everything was in order and that I should not fear being expelled.
She expressed her “shock” on learning on February 28 this year that her visa application and her human rights claim had been refused. One of the many reasons given by the Home Office for rejecting Ms Alvarez’s application was that she did not meet the financial requirement of eligibility of at least £18,600, as her pension funds were not “not accessible”.
Another line from the seven-page document read: “The Secretary of State has not seen evidence that there are insurmountable obstacles…meaning the very significant difficulties you or your partner would face in continuing your life of family together outside the United Kingdom in the United States of America, and which could not be overcome or would cause very serious hardship to you or your partner.”
In her appeal, Ms Alvarez argued that she had provided documentary evidence of her husband’s pension and that she had collected his small teacher’s pension and Social Security – the United States retirement benefits system – early so that she can meet the financial requirement for the spousal visa.
Explaining her predicament in her letter to the court judge, she wrote: “Now if I returned home I would have problems finding a job that would include health benefits for John and me since I am only allowed to earn that much without being penalized with my social security. Also, now that I am 65, it is very unlikely that I will be hired.”
She added that she would not get US retiree health insurance until next year, meaning she would only have “basic hospitalization”. She continued, “And I couldn’t get that for John, since he’s not American and over 70, it’s going to be extremely difficult and VERY expensive to get health care for him. him in the United States”
Mr. Delahunty took early retirement from his former job due to anxiety and depression caused by the grim nature of his job, and to this day suffers from severe depression at times. He also doesn’t think he could travel because he has collapsed discs in his neck, which require strong painkillers, his wife said.
She told WalesOnline: “Our biggest hurdle would be if he’s over 70… He’s just not sure [if he could travel], between his health issues and whether he could get insurance for all of his health issues – because that’s another thing in America, you’re often turned down because of pre-existing conditions. So that’s another big concern for us, and I know he should make sure those conditions are taken care of.
Since moving here, she has lived with her husband in his apartment on Barry Island, which he owns without a mortgage. He also owns another house, in which all his two sons, one of their partners and his granddaughter live. Ms Alvarez said the only way the couple could afford to live somewhere in America would be if her husband sold his two properties – leaving his family members homeless.
“His only son earns a very small salary and his other son is a stay-at-home dad. I keep telling [the Home Office]if you force it, there could be four people in social housing,’ she told WalesOnline.
After appealing, Ms Alvarez received a second nine-page denial from the Interior Ministry on March 27, which doubled down on the reasons for denial outlined in the first letter. The letter, which she called “cruel and inhumane”, adds that she “should never have expected that she would be allowed to stay permanently in this country” and that he would not There is no documentary evidence that the couple would not be able to “accommodate and support themselves in the United States”. He concluded that she had “no reason to remain in the UK” and that there were “no exceptional circumstances in this appeal”.
In her letter to the court judge ahead of the hearing, she wrote: ‘We have no idea why I am being asked to leave as I am not a drain on the public purse. We own two houses and have savings and pensions. Please don’t separate a loving couple who just want to live in peace and contribute to their hometown of Barry. I have spent the last three years of my life here and through the love of John and my friends it has become my chosen home.
She told WalesOnline that she hopes if she gets the visa she can volunteer as a children’s librarian. “The irony is that I had already ordered the book on how to study for the citizenship test so that I could one day be a citizen here and share my husband’s pride in his Wales.”
Admitting that the visa fight had taken a toll on her well-being, she said: “I’m with a man who is so kind and so loving. And every day I wake up to hugs and such love and such love. support. I don’t want it to be ripped off. He keeps saying, ‘I shouldn’t have brought you here, I shouldn’t have put you through all this’ and I said, ‘But I wouldn’t trade what we had for anything.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All visa applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, based on the evidence provided and in accordance with immigration rules. We do not routinely comment on cases. individual.”