UK visa department threatened Japanese woman with prison despite her being in the UK legally

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The UK Visas and Immigration department told a Japanese woman, photographer Haruko Tomioka, that she has 7 days to leave the UK or face a possible prison sentence, despite her being in the UK legally with her Polish husband. Under EU law nationals of any EU member state can live and work in any other member state, and can bring their spouses and children with them.

After a 2 year ordeal the Home Office has since confirmed that Mrs Tomioka is in the UK legally.

Sanwar Ali Comments:

It is surely possible to have effective immigration control and at the same time treat people fairly.   It is already the case that the law is unfair towards migrants and those who help migrants.  UK Visas and an organisation sponsored by UK visas make mistakes some of the time and does things that they should not do.  In a drive for efficiency, the Government has reduced appeal rights and so has made it difficult if not impossible to challenge many decisions.  Inevitably this results in more injustice and unfairness. Even those who support very tough and restrictive immigration controls cannot deny this.  The UK visa system is very much in need of reform.

Other UK visa options difficult

If the Home Office hadn't eventually recognised their mistake Mrs Tomioka may have had to apply for another UK visa. Popular UK visa options include the Tier 2 visa to work for a specific employer.  This is difficult to obtain and allows skilled workers to work for a UK employer with a tier 2 sponsorship licence, and eventually gain legal permanent residence.

UK Visas and Immigration threaten prison

In a saga lasting more than 2 years, Mrs Tomioka also had her child benefits stopped, her driving license revoked, and was told she could be separated from her 8 year old son.

Mrs Tomioka was ordered to pay back £5000 in child benefits, and to report to a UK Visas and Immigration centre on a monthly basis, or face possible detention, a prison sentence, and a £5000 fine.

Despite informing the Home Office that she was living with her EU national husband, Mrs Tomioka was told 2 weeks ago that she had just 7 days to leave the UK. “This means they can come and arrest me. I was really frightened,” she said.

“I was afraid I would just get a knock on my door and I would be separated from my son and, with my husband working, who would look after him.”

UK permanent residence application sparks ordeal

The ordeal started after Mrs Tomioka applied for UK legal permanent residence in 2015, in response to then Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement to hold a Brexit referendum. She had already been living in the UK with her husband for 10 years, and had previously opted for 5 year entry stamps on her passport.

However, after making her permanent residence application she was bombarded with threatening letters and texts ordering her to leave the country.

This continued until just last week, when Mrs Tomioka phoned the UK Visas and Immigration Returns Preparation Team, who had sent the latest threatening letter, and informed them she was the wife of an EU national.

Home Office backtracks

Mrs Tomioka says the woman she spoke to was the first person who listened to her throughout the whole 2 year ordeal.

Her driving license and and child benefit were reinstated quickly, and the Home Office has since admitted their blunder.

“Ms Tomioka is not subject to removal from the UK. We are currently working with her to explain how she can make an appropriate application should she wish to do so,” a Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian.

The case echoes that of Shane Ridge, a UK citizen who was wrongly told in August that he must leave the UK. As reported, Mr Ridge was also threatened with detention, a prison sentence, and a fine, before receiving an apology from the Home Office, and confirmation that he is in the UK legally. can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship Licences and Tier 2 Visas

If you need help with a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence or would like help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence obligations can help. More and more employers are facing sudden unannounced onsite inspections. Contact us for a copy of our free Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence Compliance guide.