A family living in Leeds face being torn apart after an American mum and her daughter were denied permanent visas from the Home Office.
The government’s rejection of Katelyn Heard-Nelson’s application for a visa could see her separated from her husband, Simon Nelson, for years – and her two children forced to live thousands of miles apart.
Katelyn and Simon married in November 2018 before moving to Leeds with Katelyn’s daughter Mendy a year later.
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Then in April 2020, the couple welcomed to the world their first child together, Jack, born in Leeds.
Lawyers told Katelyn getting a permanent UK visa would be ‘relatively straightforward – leaving the family crushed when they were rejected and informed Katelyn and Mendy would be deported to the US.
Katelyn has been told she must return to the United States with Mendy, leaving behind Simon on Jack, or alternatively, can take both Mendy and Jack to the US with her – leaving husband Simon alone in Leeds.
Simon, Mendy and Jack
And the family could be apart for years while Simon tries to secure a US visa.
The Home Office has said in a letter that deportation ‘is of the best interest to the child’.
Speaking to LeedsLive, Katelyn said: “We were told by our lawyers that it would likely be a relatively straightforward process to gain our UK Visas due to our situation.
“When we were denied by The Home Office – we were crushed.
“Our lawyers were shocked by the decision.
“My husband immediately took his only holiday time off from work to be with us in case we were about to have years separated from each other.”
The Home Office denied Katelyn and Mendy’s visa applications to reside in Leeds and said that careful consideration of the wellbeing of both children was taken into consideration.
Simon, who has also applied for a US visa, which could take years, continues to have his application returned by their US attorney for corrections, and the process is moving at a much slower rate due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
And while his US visa application is underway, he is unable to leave the UK, meaning he would not be able to visit Katelyn should they be forced to leave the country for the States.
Simon and Jack
With half of the family facing deportation, Katelyn says that they just want to find a way to stay together – no matter which country.
Katelyn said: “We don’t care where we are, we just want to be together.
“We’re settled here in Leeds – my daughter goes to school here and has friends. We love living here.
“The fact that we could be torn apart from each other is devastating. We want this to be done legally – I live here legally currently.”
Katelyn has paid thousands to their lawyers, to the Home Office for visas and has paid NHS surcharges whilst living in the UK over the last two years.
The couple have filed for an appeal and asked the Home Office to reconsider separating law-abiding citizens.
She said: “We’ve made the UK our home and have sent them further evidence of our lives here in the UK! My husband has been a consistent taxpayer for over 12 years, since his first job as a teen.
“All fees had always been paid in full since we’ve resided in the UK, I’ve even had an unexpected gallbladder removal whilst here in the UK and we paid in full.
“I am unable to legally work in the UK without a visa and I’ve now gone almost two years without employment as my husband works overtime to keep us ahead.”
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Whilst the couple await news on their appeal, they have started an online petition asking The Home Office to reconsider their decision.
Katelyn said: “We only ask you to help us get the Home Office to reconsider separating our family by signing our petition.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and we are so grateful to have been granted this time together as a family. We want to and need to stay together here in the UK as a family!”
You can sign the petition by clicking here.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The application has been considered in accordance with the immigration rules. We have reviewed the decision and we are satisfied it is correct.”
The family reaffirmed that they will be appealing the decision.
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