Huddersfield student Lizzy Thornton's long-distance love looks doomed by new immigration rules

IT is a love story that has spanned almost 5,000 miles.

Lewis Batohie and Lizzy Thornton in Greenhead Park
Lewis Batohie and Lizzy Thornton in Greenhead Park

IT is a love story that has spanned almost 5,000 miles.

But the romance between Lizzy Thornton and Lewis Batohie could be doomed – thanks to new immigration rules.

The Huddersfield student is engaged to her American boyfriend but he cannot move to the UK because of tough new restrictions.

Now the couple are appealing to MPs and to Home Secretary Theresa May in the hope they can finally be together.

The rules, introduced in the summer, mean that Lizzy, of Quarmby, has to be the sponsor for Lewis and has to have an income of £18,600 a year or have a savings account with at least £62,500.

Lizzy said: “I am still a student at The Open University and a part-time attendant at Huddersfield Sports Centre, so barely have time to be working a job to earn that much money.

“Lewis and I hoped that third-party sponsorship would still help and my family are more than willing to help but unfortunately, with the new rules, a third-party would not be allowed to sponsor him.

“I hope, someday soon, the government will come to realise how ludicrous these immigration laws and expectations are and have some compassion for those who want nothing more than to be with the people they love in the place that they love.”

Lizzy, 20, met Lewis on the internet 18 months ago.

She said: “We talked every day; it turned out we had a lot in common. After a few months he asked to be my boyfriend. I was sceptical as he lived in San Antonio, Texas and I didn’t like the idea of a long distance relationship, but I had grown to really like him so I agreed.

“Spending so much time together online meant that we had nothing to do except talk. We couldn’t sit down to watch TV together in silence, we didn’t have our friends to go and hang out with. So every day we would wake up, call each other via Skype and sit and video chat all day.

“We probably knew each other better than our friends who had been together for over three years knew each other.”

In May, Lewis, 21, flew to England for a holiday and the couple finally met. The relationship that had bloomed on the internet really took off and the couple were inseparable for the two months Lewis was in the UK.

“My family loved him and he fitted in well. My friends all liked him too and we had become known for our relationship.

“When the day came that Lewis had to leave it was devastating. We both cried and held each others hands throughout the car journey to the airport.”

But just a week later, Lewis called Lizzy and asked her to marry him – after getting her dad’s permission.

In October, Lizzy flew to the States to stay with Lewis and his family in Texas and the couple bought an engagement ring.

But Lizzy was homesick and realised their future could only be in the UK which is when they hit the snags with the new immigration laws.

Lizzy said: “It saddens me that the Home Secretary put these rules into place.

“I can understand why they thought it would be a good idea as it meant that less immigrant families would be having to resort to claiming benefits, but I feel that they don't take into account younger couples who haven’t had the chance to make the amount that is required or have even completed their qualifications.

“Every day of our lives is now dedicated to finding a way to be together in the UK, whether it’s working three jobs each or working one, risky job that pays a lot, but even then we would have to be apart for a few more years to achieve that”.

A statement from the UK Border Agency said: “The changes are part of the Government's programme of reform of the immigration routes and follow wide consultation and expert advice from the Migration Advisory Committee.

“The changes include introducing a new minimum income threshold of £18,600 for sponsoring the settlement in the UK of a spouse or partner, or fiancé (e) or proposed civil partner of non-European Economic Area nationality.

“They also include extending the minimum probationary period for settlement for non-EEA spouses and partners from two years to five years, to test the genuineness of the relationship”.

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