Help w/ Legal Fees 4 UK Family Visa

My name is Rajesh Westerberg. I am an American Citizen married to a British Citizen, Nicola Percy.  We have two children, Pearl, age 11 and Ari, age 8, both of whom are British Citizens.  I am in the midst of a legal battle for the right to join my family in the UK. 

We need to raise  £4500 in the next three weeks to cover the legal fees for our appeal against the Home Office decision to deny me a visa to live and work in the UK.

The children were born in London at a time when I was living in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain.  We moved to California shortly after our son was born in 2009.  I tried to maintain my ILR by traveling back to the UK as often as possible, but it is expensive.  Regrettably my ILR was lost in 2012 because I had stayed out of the country for 28 days longer than the two year period allowed.  

My wife's parents live in the Southwest of England are in their mid-eighties. Her father is registered disabled and her mother has Parkinson's disease, they can no longer travel to the USA and are both now in need of family support.

In July of 2017 we travelled to the UK to visit them.  I was offered work in Cardiff as a Scenic Artist for the producing arm of the Welsh National Opera so we approached an immigration lawyer about our options for moving to the UK.  They helped us to apply for FLR(FP) Further Leave to Remain under the Family and Private Life category for which we needed to show residency and register the children for school in the UK.

We applied using the Premium Service Centre in Cardiff where we paid an extra £500 for an ‘on the day answer’, we were then made to wait for three and a half weeks only for our application to be denied. The Home Office made an error when rejecting our application, claiming that we did not qualify for FLR(FP) because our children had not been resident in the UK for 7 years.  But the children are British Citizens and have a right to a family and private life in the country of their birth.  We appealed the decision to the First Tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

Initially we were given an estimated wait time of 11 months for the date of our appeal.  I stayed in the UK until mid-October of 2017 unable to work or travel. After this I simply could not afford to stay.  I returned to the US to work and send money back to my family and await news of the appeal. 

After considerable pressure from our local MP, Karin Smyth of Bristol South, as well as publicity from the Guardian newspaper about our case and a campaign now with over 12,000 signatures on Change.Org, we received an expedited appeal date set for the 8th of March, 2018.

Our lawyers advised me not to visit the UK as it would likely jeopardize the appeal process.  After two and a half months apart we had a brief visit in Paris over Christmas and New Year staying with friends and sharing precious family time.  There was a very tearful goodbye at the airport knowing another period of uncertainty and separation had begun.

To our great surprise and dismay in mid-January we received a letter from HM Courts & Tribunal Service informing us that because I had left the country our appeal was abandoned.  We immediately complained.  After a very stressful week we were relieved to hear that our appeal has been re-instated and expedited to Feb 5th, 2018!     

We now have less than 3 weeks to raise £1750 to cover the cost of legal representation at the appeal.  We have already spent over £2750 in visa application and legal fees.  We have set our goal at £4500 to cover as much of these costs as possible.

We are hard-working honest people but the last 6 months has been emotionally draining and very detrimental to our financial stability with thousands of pounds in travel expenses and months of lost earnings.  Assistance with the cost of legal fees would help us get back on our feet.

We want to be together in the UK to raise our children, and share time with our parents and be there to care for them in their old age.  We never expected it would be such a harrowing experience.  We are incredibly grateful for the support of our family, friends and wider community. 

Thank you for considering donating to our GoFundMe campaign.  

Guardian article about our case

Follow-up article in the Guardian 

Please sign our petition on Change.Org 
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Rajesh Westerberg 
Bristol, South West England, United Kingdom