A war hero from Warwickshire who fought the Taliban in Afghanistan says that he is being 'forced out of Britain'.
29-year-old Andrew McLaughlin has an American wife and daughter and they have been denied entry into the UK because of the government's strict immigration rules regarding the rights of non-EU spouses.
The soldier, who served in the Grenadier Guards 1st battalion for four years, was deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province from March to September 2012.
The life-long Villa fan married Wanda, 37, in December 2011 having met her on a trip to the US to visit family and friends.
But because of his low income, his wife and daughter have been denied entry to the UK, forcing him to move permanently to the US to be with them.
He has now been separated from his wife and their two-year-old daughter, Gracie, for more than six months.
I’m being forced out of my own country because I don’t earn enough money. I fought for my country and it hurts that no-one is willing to fight for me. I’ve got no choice but to leave because I’m not going to miss out on my daughter’s life. I feel totally let down. I was on the frontline and regularly encountered deadly Taliban resistance. I lost three close friends there, including one mate I met in basic training – that sort of loss is pretty horrendous. What I went through out there changed me forever.”
The Warwickshire College graduate, who also has American citizenship because his dad originally comes from Pennsylvania, wanted to bring his family to the UK so his daughter could experience her British heritage.
When Wanda, originally from Puerto Rico, arrived at London Heathrow in June 2015, having packed up her life in New Jersey, she was detained and interrogated for more than six hours because she did not have the necessary visa.
She was humiliated and told she had to pay for her own flight to return to the US within the week. The officials were rifling through her baggage and she was extremely upset. They wouldn’t let me see her, or my daughter, for hours. When I finally got through to someone and told them I was a combat veteran they said ‘I couldn’t care less.’”
When Andrew tried to re-enrol in the Army in Coventry in April this year his application was declined because of Government budget cuts to recruitment.
Instead he found work as a trainee driver but was denied entry to the UK because his basic wage did not meet the strict income requirement of £18,600 required to allow a foreign spouse to settle here.
Andrew added: “My wife is well-educated and has years of retail management experience so she wouldn’t be a burden on the UK. In fact, she’s an extremely hard worker. But she was mistreated and detained."
All spousal visa applications must be supported by the evidence required under the rules to show that the sponsor is able to financially support the applicant in the UK. Cases are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the immigration rules and based on the evidence provided. There are clear rules for British citizens looking to bring their non-EU spouse to this country, including a minimum income threshold based on advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee. This policy has been approved by Parliament and upheld by the courts.”