American loses battle to stay with wife

DOUG Houtman took his battle to stay in England to the highest level in Britain and America.Despite writing letters to prime minister Tony Blair and US president George W Bush it appears to have made no difference as he still has to leave the country.

DOUG Houtman took his battle to stay in England to the highest level in Britain and America.

Despite writing letters to prime minister Tony Blair and US president George W Bush it appears to have made no difference as he still has to leave the country.

For Doug and wife Sue, their dream move to England to run their own business has turned into a nightmare.

The problem came after Mr Houtman, 46, was told by US officials that he needed to get a six-month tourist visa before he arrived in England. Mrs Houtman, 41, did not need a visa as she is a British citizen.


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Mr Houtman was informed that he could apply for permanent residency when he got to Britain, but has since found out that this information was incorrect.

When he requested a new visa, his application was refused and he was informed that he should have got a two-year spouse visa when he arrived in the country.

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Immigration law was changed in April 2003 to stop the abuse of rules where people get married solely to avoid deportation.

This has meant that Mr Houtman could not get a spouse visa while he was in England and the only way to get one would be to go back to America while his wife stayed in Ipswich to run their business.

Even though the couple was married before they arrived in this country, he has been accused of trying to remain in the country illegally and this caused him to "feel like a criminal".

When he received a letter saying his visa application had been refused, Mr Houtman said: "My natural thought was to run, but I can't. I have never run - I'm a fighter."

He did fight. He visited the US embassy in London, contacted Tony Blair and George W Bush, had meetings with Ipswich MP Chris Mole and made numerous phone calls to the Home Office in an attempt to stay.

During this period he described his ordeal as "feeling like an inmate on death row waiting to find out if my life is going to be spared."

Despite being told he had to leave by a government official, the couple went to an immigration lawyer yesterday, at a personal cost of £150 per hour.

However, even that has appeared to fail and for Doug Houtman, with his suitcases already packed, the fight now appears to be over.

n What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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