UK visa fears, so no parents at wedding

05 February 2017 - 02:00 By TASCHICA PILLAY

Former Lotto and Road 2 Riches TV presenter Paul Freathy and his wife, Gail, could not attend their only daughter Jessica's wedding in South Africa because they were locked in a visa battle in Britain.

Jessica married Stephen Berndt last week, without Gail Freathy and Paul Freathy attending the wedding.
Jessica married Stephen Berndt last week, without Gail Freathy and Paul Freathy attending the wedding.
Image: Supplied

The couple feared that leaving the UK would jeopardise the chances of South African-born Gail being allowed to return to their new home.

They left South Africa for Britain in 2013 after a violent robbery at their Johannesburg home. They invested "every cent" in moving, with furniture and pets, to start a photographic shop in Devon.

Freathy, 58, is British-born, but his wife needed a spousal visa, which recently expired.

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She was told to leave the UK and then reapply for a visa, but decided to stay put and try to resolve the problem. She now has two weeks before being expelled.

When the Freathys became aware of the visa problems, they were afraid that Gail would be denied entry upon her return to Britain.

Freathy said he and Gail had never spent more than a day or two apart in the 13 years they had been married.

"Now Gail has just over two weeks left to leave behind her home and beloved pets," said Freathy.

Failure to comply with Britain's immigration laws makes Gail liable for expulsion and a re-entry ban of up to 10 years. She could also be fined, or jailed for up to six months.

"We have contacted the Home Office to ask when we have to leave exactly and how long Gail is banned, but no response," said Freathy.

The spousal visa, according to Freathy, was not renewed because the Home Office discovered that the business the couple owned was not paying them a full salary.

"We no longer qualified for a spousal visa," he said. The couple applied for a family permit or leave-to-remain visa. Both were denied.

Freathy said their business made £55000 (R909,000) profit last year which was put back into the business, instead of paying themselves a salary.

He said that in six months after becoming aware of the problems with Gail's visa, there had been no feedback from the Home Office.

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They called their visa consultants because they wanted to attend their daughter's wedding in Johannesburg last week. Even though they submitted proof of the wedding, a new visa for Gail was refused.

The Home Office said Gail could appeal the decision only after leaving Britain. A Home Office spokesman told the Sunday Times that each visa application was considered on its merits and that it did not comment on individual cases.

Freathy said it was heartbreaking to not walk his daughter down the aisle last week.

"Gail was in tears. It was heartbreaking and devastating for both of us," he said. Freathy said he and his wife had asked the local MP, Sarah Wollaston, for help.

A year ago, the Home Office granted 93-year-old South African Myrtle Cothill permission to stay in the country after her visa had expired.

Cothill, from KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast, had moved to Britain to live with her daughter, Mary Wills, after suffering from poor health.

She applied for a six-month visitor's visa and, after a series of unsuccessful appeals for it to be converted to permanent residency, the Home Office ordered that she fly back to South Africa. She was eventually allowed to stay because of "compassionate and exceptional circumstances".

Jessica married Stephen Berndt last week, without Gail and Paul attending the wedding.