NHS worker from Hartlepool says her hopes of being with her American husband have been dashed by new immigration rules

A Hartlepool woman has told how her hopes of her American husband joining her in the UK look set to be dashed due to immigration rule changes.
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Laura Whitehurst, 32, married husband Marc in the US in January 2022 after falling in love three years earlier.

The couple had always planned for Marc, 28, to come and join Laura and her family in Hartlepool.

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But she says changes to immigration laws by the Government from April mean she will not be able to earn enough money to be his official sponsor.

Laura and Marc on their wedding day in January 2022.Laura and Marc on their wedding day in January 2022.
Laura and Marc on their wedding day in January 2022.

Under Family Visa rules, UK-based sponsors need to earn a certain amount to enable dependant family members to come to this country.

Currently, that figure is £18,600 a year.

But from April 11 it is due to increase to £29,000 before rising to £38,700 by early next year.

Laura, of Rossmere, who got a job in the NHS to meet the current threshold, said: “I’ll never earn that amount to sponsor my husband to live in the UK.

Marc, Laura and her son Layson, 11, from a previous relationship want to be together a family.Marc, Laura and her son Layson, 11, from a previous relationship want to be together a family.
Marc, Laura and her son Layson, 11, from a previous relationship want to be together a family.
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"That has dashed our dreams of him coming here. It is putting our life plans on hold and not just us but plenty of other families.

"I feel like the Government is sending a message out to people that you can’t fall in love with someone who is not a British citizen.”

Laura says moving to America would cause disruption to her 11-year-old son, Layson, and mean having to leave her nana Patricia Wright who lives with her and who Laura is a carer for.

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Family ties: Laura with son Layson Durose and her nana Patricia Wright who she lives with and cares for.Family ties: Laura with son Layson Durose and her nana Patricia Wright who she lives with and cares for.
Family ties: Laura with son Layson Durose and her nana Patricia Wright who she lives with and cares for.

She met Marc, from Virginia, through his sister while on a holiday in America in 2017.

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Their friendship blossomed into romance in 2019 until the Covid pandemic then kept them apart.

”We knew for the marriage to work one of us was going to eventually move,” said Laura. “The plan was for him to move here right from the get go.

"He could see himself having a great life here with us but now it’s near impossible for that to happen and it’s heartbreaking.”

As part of a family visa application, Laura would have to present a six-month payslip to immigration officials. But she is due to receive hers just weeks after the rules change.

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She added there is a lot of misunderstanding around immigration, stating her husband would not be entitled to benefits and would have to pay a fee towards the NHS.

In America, Marc works laying concrete foundations, and Laura, who works as a radiology support assistant at the University Hospital of North Tees, said he is willing to try his hand at anything here.

The Government says current migration levels are “far too high” and the changes are part of its plan to cut numbers by 300,000 a year.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have a longstanding principle that anyone bringing dependants to live in the UK must be able to financially support them.

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"The Minimum Income Requirement ensures that families are self-sufficient instead of relying on public funds, with the ability to integrate if they are to play a full part in British life.”

It added by raising the minimum income for family visas incrementally it will give predictability to families.

But Laura said: “£38,700 is just way above the average wage, especially for us in the North East.”