Passport blunder tears family apart
A NEW Zealand man seeking to join his partner in the United Kingdom has never met their five-month-old son thanks to alleged blunders by authorities handling his visa and passport.
Luke Thomas, 29, has been separated from his partner and three children for nearly a year following a series of delays and alleged errors by UK immigration officials.
Mr Thomas and his British girlfriend Simone Brookes had lived together in Paeroa, southeast of Auckland, for 10 years, where they had their two daughters Bella, 7, and Raia, 4.
They planned to move to Britain before their third child, Raiden, was born in May.
"We miss him massively and our son still hasn't met his dad in real life," Ms Brookes, 32, told the New Zealand Herald from Dudley, England.
"I have tried to be tough for the family but it has been the hardest thing I've ever done."
The couple came to the United Kingdom initially on December 17 last year, but Mr Thomas was deported nine days later on Boxing Day as his visa was not in place.
They filed the appropriate forms, while Ms Brookes stayed in Britain with their children as she was pregnant at the time, and they thought it would only take a few months for the visa to be sorted.
Over the next few months they had a series of paperwork issues, and eventually applied for a holiday visa out of desperation to allow Mr Thomas to be at Raiden's birth, who had heart complications.
Ms Brookes said this was denied as officials thought Mr Thomas would not return to New Zealand.
After consulting a solicitor, Mr Thomas applied again for a visa in April, paying over $900 to have it fast-tracked due to their son's heart condition.
The couple allege the Home Office then made a series of errors and delays including losing Mr Thomas' passport and even claiming to never have received the application.
When the Home Office eventually sent Mr Thomas his passport and visa at the end of September, he discovered the entry stamp to the UK had already expired.
Ms Brookes said the process had driven them both into states of depression.
"We've both faced depression as a result of it and just need our family back together," she said.
"My kids have been given so many broken promises thinking Luke is coming back, and have to be let down so many times when he's still not here."
Their solicitor, Danielle Blake, told the Independent it was one of the worst cases she had worked on.
"It's extremely frustrating. They took a month to even realise they had the paperwork to begin with," she said.
"The Home Office determined back in July that they were going to approve the application - we had confirmation of that then - but it's taking them so long to actually get the visa issued."
This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission.