UK couple’s spousal visa thwarted due to bombs and bureaucracy in Ukraine

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On Thursday, a UK man and his Ukrainian wife spent 12 hours moving from one city to another were targeted by Russian bombs in a desperate but failed proposal to finish her biometric enrollment for a britain spouse visa.

Iryna Dar and Fozan left the central city of Dnipro, where they were presently staying, on a midnight train on Wednesday, 23 February, in a last-ditch try to reach the processing centre in Kyiv. Soon after, the city’s airport closed, and the town started getting hit by missiles.

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Their train jolted to a halt in a remote suburb of the Ukrainian capital as Russian airstrikes hit the city. Ultimately, the couple decided to get off the train there, pay more for a taxi than they had for the train tickets, and head to the biometric registration centre.

When they got there, a handwritten poster on the door said, “Today we aren’t working, sorry for the inconvenience.” They called the embassy, who first told the centre was open, then said there was nothing they could do, as the collection of biometric data had been contracted out.

Fozan is a student of medicine at a university that has already evacuated many of its international students, but he refused to leave without his wife. “There is no way in hell I’m leaving her behind, and it’s not up for debate. I have to protect her,” he said.

Iryna had initially applied for a UK visitor’s visa two days before the British embassy advised citizens to leave Ukraine, hoping to meet her husband’s extended family after Covid restrictions forced them to have a small wedding. Because the embassy held her passport, the couple could not leave.

As the situation in Ukraine got more serious, the couple decided to switch their application and ask for a spousal visa.

Visitor visas cannot be used for more than six months. As warnings of invasion came, they feared it might not be possible to return to Dnipro for longer than that, and Iryna didn’t want to be in the UK on a restricted visa for an unknown period of time.

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But the embassy kept her passport and told her that the biometric details collected for her visitor visa could not be used for her latest application, she said. After ten days of increasingly desperate calls to a consular helpline, her passport was returned on Tuesday, and they told her to redo her biometric registration in Kyiv.

So they bought train tickets that would get them to the Ukrainian capital on the first possible day, Thursday morning. “We were woken up on the train at 5 am by friends calling, who said they were in hiding in the basement, and the shelling went on for over an hour,” Fozan said.

Despite those attacks and fear of more violence, the couple has decided to return to Dnipro again because it’s their home. They have family there, and they hope the university where Fozan studies might include them in any further evacuation.

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