True love runs into red tape
AN American woman has spoken of her heartbreak after being separated from her Barnstaple fianc� by UK border officials. Carolyn Johnson planned to marry boyfriend Mark Sowden on March 25 next year. But the plans have been thrown into disarray after a dist
AN American woman has spoken of her heartbreak after being separated from her Barnstaple fianc� by UK border officials.
Carolyn Johnson planned to marry boyfriend Mark Sowden on March 25 next year. But the plans have been thrown into disarray after a distraught Carolyn was deported back to the US on Sunday.
The couple say they have spent a "frustrating and upsetting" two months going through the proper channels in their bid to become man and wife.
But their dream of spending their first Christmas together and of finding happiness ever after has quickly turned into a nightmare of confusing paperwork and immigration red-tape.
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The couple met in March this year when Carolyn, 41, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, visited the UK on a two-week holiday. After meeting and falling in love with Mark, 39, she decided to extend her stay to see how the relationship developed.
On July 11, Mark proposed and the couple began seeking advice on the necessary visas Carolyn would need to begin a new life with her husband-to-be in North Devon.
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"We fell madly in love and when Mark proposed, it was the happiest day of my life," Carolyn told the Gazette.
"We contacted the Citizen's Advice Bureau and the Home Office and were told that I needed to return to the US to apply for a special marriage visitor's visa so that I could come back to England.
"Once back in the UK I would then have to apply for a Certificate of Acceptance which would enable me to legally marry in this country."
Carolyn booked a return flight home and flew back to Milwaukee on September 24, a day before her standard six-month tourist visa expired. Once home, she applied for her special visa to return to the UK, something the couple expected would be a formality.
"I sent off my passport along with all the information but received a letter back from the British Consulate-General in Chicago refusing me entry," said Carolyn.
"We have tried doing this the proper way and now I am refused entry clearance. It absolutely breaks my heart because I have fallen deeply in love with Mark and truly feel he is my soul mate.
"I never knew that it could be so difficult to be with the one you love." Carolyn, who despite not having a UK marriage visitor visa, took the difficult decision to board her return flight back to the UK on Thursday morning.
Flying into Bristol Airport via Amsterdam, she was taken aside by customs officials.
"They seized my passport, took my photograph and fingerprints and questioned me for about three hours," said a tearful Carolyn on Friday morning.
"Mark had come to the airport to pick me up and they asked him a lot of questions over the phone and eventually agreed to temporarily admit me on the understanding that I fly back on Sunday."
Mark, who works as a pallet-maker at a firm in Torrington, said they were at a loss as what to do next.
"You always read about people who come to this country illegally and find jobs and homes; we're just trying to do things the right way."
Barbara Woodward, UK Border Agency International Director, told the Gazette: "Regrettably, Ms Johnson did not provide enough evidence to support her application.
"If Ms Johnson submits a new application for a visa supported by the correct documentation UK Border Agency will consider it.
"We publish details of all of our categories of visas and the documentation needed to support them, including categories for those wishing to marry and settle in the UK, on our website.