A COUPLE are pleading with the Government not to “put a price on love” amid fears that immigration rules on minimum incomes will tear their young family apart.
Aerial trapeze artist Natalie Stafford married South African yacht skipper Michael Engel in his home town of Cape Town, South Africa, last year.
The pair, who live in South Milford near Leeds, have a 14 month old daughter Nyama Rose together.
But Natalie’s unpredictable income - and tight rules governing how much UK partners must earn before their partners can be allowed to live here permanently - have left the pair in limbo.
The couple have today launched a petition seeking support, so they can continue to live near Natalie’s family and try to build a life here.
The petition says: “My husband and the father of my 14 month old daughter has been refused his right to remain in the UK. The main reason for this is that we are not rich enough to stay. The UK Government has in fact put a price on love.”
Michael, 31, said: “New rules mean that my wife has to earn more than £18,600 a year for me to be here with her, but being an aerial artist and no work for her locally, makes that difficult.
“I cannot drive, as immigration have my passport, and my next appeal hearing is not until January in London.
“I cannot work as I don’t have a national insurance number.
“All I want to do is live here with my wife and daughter.
“They suggest I return to South Africa and apply from there but that will mean expensive flights and living there for six months. It could take a long time and we don’t want to live apart.”
Natalie has now set up a new business called TillyRoseDesigns.com, using old driftwood to make furniture and decorative items, to improve her finances. The couple have the backing of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
Natalie, 30, explained the couple met while they were both working for Celebrity Cruiselines back in 2009.
As an aerialist and dancer, she was working for the theatre company onboard, while Michael worked as a waiter and bartender.
The couple lived together in South Africa for several years and married in January 2013.
But they decided that the UK was the best place for them to bring up their child and Natalie wanted to be around her close-knit family.
Natalie said: “We are also contacting as many MPs as we can to get feedback on wether they would back an early day motion to review the financial rule in parliament. We have had only positive feedback from a few MPs this far.”
A Home Office spokesman said the department cannot comment on individual cases but confirmed Mr Engel’s application is subject to the appeal process.
“We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution but it must not be at the taxpayer’s expense,” the spokesman said.
“Our family rules were brought in to make sure that spouses coming to the UK do not become reliant on the taxpayer for financial support, and are well enough supported to integrate effectively.
“This is fair to applicants and to the rest of the public, and has been upheld by the Court of Appeal.”
The Government’s minimum income rule was quashed by a High Court ruling but later re-instated on appeal.
As well as fighting their own immigration battle, Michael and Natalie also work with JCWI, a charity which supports families who are in the same situation.