They’ve Outlawed Cameron Diaz


“Can you get us to the nearest rental car place?” We asked the taxi driver, eyes bleary with tears. “We still have 10 minutes before they close.”

There were, of course, no rental cars available at 0 hours notice on a Friday evening. We had booked a flight (and cancelled it) every Friday for the past 5 weeks and today was going to be no exception.

“Alright,” I said as we got out of the taxi. “Let’s get some food and figure out a new plan.”

“I don’t know if I feel like eating…” Mel was shaking, she looked physically sick. We called our parents to share the good news we had been hoping to hear for over 6 months. Then jumped straight on a train, our minds racing.

“The apartment’s all packed up, I suppose we better get a hotel?” We walked out of the train station, into the first hotel we saw, and straight up to our room — breakfast-included, things were looking up.


“There’s a flight on Monday…”

“With the covid test, I wouldn’t be able to teach until Thursday though. The school has waited so long I think now we have to get there as soon as possible.”

It’s incredible how little 6 months of planning can help, when the date you move from one country to another takes you by surprise.

“There’s a flight tomorrow… via Zürich…”

“A stopover means another country, with another set of covid restrictions.”

“But we could be in the UK for at least some of this week.”


Well, the flight via Zürich didn’t work out 🤷‍♂️ but at least we were now in Denmark, one country closer to home, with another flight booked for first thing Monday morning.

Logic tells me food at the airport hotel wasn’t great. But man was that the best pasta of my life.


Although we could see the runway from our hotel, we were leaving nothing to chance. By 05:30 we were at the check-in counter for our flight at 07:00.

“I need your passports, your proof of vaccination status, and negative test result please?”

“Done, done, and done.”

I hand over the stack of documents. After a moment the man behind the counter frowns.

“There are no tickets under your name, you will need to speak with the office.”

He points to the opposite end of the cavernous airport hall. Of course… We set off at a jog.

The lady behind the desk was a shining beacon of how to do customer service, attentive and knowledgable she asks: “Did you do anything odd when you booked this, did you rebook from another flight?”

“We used some vouchers from a flight that was cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic.”

“Okay we see this about once a day, sometimes those vouchers just don’t work. I need to call British Airways, it will be about 20 minutes.”

We sit down and start doing some mental maths: the flight is at 07:00; check in closes at 06:15; it’s now 05:40… We only have half an hour. This is going to be tight.

While Ticket Office Lady waits on hold, I start looking up flights on my phone.

05:50, 25 minutes till check-in closes: I go up to the ticket office desk again: “I could book the same flight through my phone and just pay cash. We might lose the money from the first one but we’d spend the same on another last-minute airport hotel.”

Ticket Office Lady is understanding but speaks with an air of absolute confidence: “Give me another 10 minutes, I think it will work. If we don’t get through by 06:00 then I can book you new tickets directly on my system.”





We’re back at the desk: “We really have to be on this plane, I think we just need to book new tickets.”

Ticket Office Lady: “They’ve just come through. Run!”

So, Cameron Diaz…

You might have found the story of that weekend a bit hectic. At the time, we’d grown quite accustomed to the stress. Allow me to introduce you to UK Visas and Immigration.

In The Holiday, Jude Law plays the last of a dying breed. A man with the freedom to love a woman of any nationality, and to bring them home to the UK.

Frame from The Holiday showing Cameron Diaz & Jude Law

Under current UK law, The Holiday would not have a happy ending.

I’m in love with Mel, a German. We actually met while studying together in the UK. Strangely, the UK was happy to invest in Mel’s education but isn’t interested in profiting from her skills.

After uni, we travelled to Europe together, always imagining that we would return to the UK.

When the pandemic started, like the rest of the world, we worried about our health and the health of our family. We could not possibly have predicted that Covid-19 would be the least of our worries.

In May 2020, my Dad was admitted to hospital. Over the course of the next year he had two eye operations and lost the majority of sight in his left eye.

My Mum is the primary carer for my sister who suffers from multiple chronic conditions, including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). As we waited on tenterhooks for Dad’s condition to stabilise, the strain on Mum increased again and again.

By Christmas 2020, her exhausted body gave up. She spent 3 weeks in hospital receiving major plasma transfusions which saved her life.

With Mum out of action, the urge to go back and help was overwhelming. But we were bound by travel restrictions and our sense of duty not to risk infecting others (particularly my vulnerable family). I especially didn’t want to travel home for a short visit and get locked down — leaving Mel alone in a foreign country to weather the winter (and who knows how much longer) with no social contact.

As if that wasn’t enough, my sister had been in excruciating pain for months. Eventually, she was seen by a Gynaecologist — and then immediately rushed into an emergency operation for endometriosis. They had to remove a cyst larger than a tennis ball that had been growing on her ovary. EDS increases the risk that operations will go badly. I told her I loved her over FaceTime, brutally aware that it could be the last time we see each other.

By mid-2021, my immediate family had experienced a sudden and massive deterioration in their health.

We always expected we would move back to the UK. Now we were needed urgently.

I thought moving back to my home country would be a simple process. We had already moved to Luxembourg and Sweden together. Both times, we simply packed our bags and went. We never thought about whether we would be allowed in.

I could not have been more wrong. UK Visas and Immigration placed our freedom to love each other at odds with our need to support our struggling family.

The UK’s immigration system is equivalent to a big sign on the white cliffs of Dover that reads: “We don’t want your sort round here.”

When I’m particularly stressed, I grind my teeth at night. There are only 3 times it’s got really bad: revising for Organic Chemistry, registering my business in a foreign language, and trying to understand the UK’s xenophobic ‘Family Visa’.

After two weeks spending every waking moment researching how to meet the Family Visa’s onerous requirements I gave up and spoke to a lawyer — a £2000 luxury that few can afford. He confirmed exactly what must be done:

  • Mel and I must separate for a year while I build a history of income in the UK¹. Alternatively, they would accept proof that I have £63,000 in cold hard cash 🤷‍♂️
  • Pay over £8,000²
  • Wait 2 years, then re-apply all over again
  • Wait a further 3 years, then apply a third time for ‘indefinite leave to remain’

Ridiculous? Yes. That’s just the start:

Are you a British man? You could father 12 children, abandon them, and each tiny British citizen would be cared for by the UK’s welfare system. For their foreign mother to live with them, care for them, work, and pay taxes in the UK? It’s all but impossible.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The conversation with the lawyer actually started with some very good news:

Me: “I’m hoping you can tell me there’s another way?”
Lawyer: “There’s another way.” 😎

What followed was an optimistic week. We applied for an ‘EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit’. Although this was by no means easy³, it avoided the massive fees and the 5 years of uncertainty — this option disappeared in March 2022.

As with any UK visa, Mel had to surrender her passport, likeness, and fingerprints to the cold bureaucratic halls of a ‘visa application centre’ (in our case an expensive 6-hour train journey away in Stockholm).

At this point, Mel was offered a teaching job in the UK at her dream school. The offer made no impact on the Home Office’s decision, but it meant the clock was now ticking: we had to move to the UK before the start of the school year in September.

We officially applied for the visa on the 7th of June and were told on the application form that most people get a decision within 3 weeks.

We waited…

and waited…

and waited…

After 3 months, we had heard nothing. The Home Office was holding Mel’s passport, so we were even more trapped than before. We complained, paying £2.74 for the privilege of sending them an email. We pleaded with my family’s local MP — Damian Hinds — as well as Mel’s new employer’s MP — Nusrat Ghani. When we received replies, they were as vague as you could possibly imagine: “Your application will be processed as soon as possible”.

Apparently deadlines can be invented, moved, and then missed without reason or accountability in the Home Office.

If a system is slow enough, it’s the same as being broken. A car that travels at 1 mile an hour is broken.

My family was suffering. A class of students was waiting for their teacher. We were powerless. All I wanted to do was give up and go home, but my home had been taken from me.

Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song became our theme tune. The wailing, I think, is no coincidence:

In the end, Mel’s passport arrived back, with her visa stamped unceremoniously in the middle.

We made the flight, and will never forget enjoying a Full English breakfast in the air as British Airways carried us home.

Of course, once we arrived, the Home Office required us to re-send our entire 340-page application, including an additional 64-page form, on paper 🌲🔥

Me thumbing through the 340-page stack of paper required by the Home Office

Getting Mel ‘pre-settled status’ took 11 months.

It’s another 5 years before she’s allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely.

I recently renewed my British passport online. It took 10 days.


2023 is turning into a great year. Mel and I are settled in the UK, and my family is doing so much better. We’ve managed to buy our first house and are now expecting a baby.

But the ‘Surinder Singh’ rules which eventually allowed us to return home have since expired.

This means international couples today will not share our happy future. The UK government is forcing them to move abroad and leave their British family behind. Let the brain drain begin.


¹ to prove I can support my woman? How 1950s is that?

² 2x Family Visa application fees over 5 years + the Healthcare Surcharge + the Indefinite Leave to Remain application fee

³ We submitted close to 90 megabytes of paperwork, including translations for everything not in English. That’s enough storage to fit the entire published collection of Game of Thrones books about 50 times, or the Lord of The Rings trilogy almost 200 times.

⁴ A Skilled Worker visa requires an onerous and expensive application for both you and your would-be employer. No wonder there’s a teacher shortage.

⁵ This article was difficult and emotional to write, that’s partly why it took so long. I’m grateful to my friends and family for encouraging me to publish it. My hope is that, one day soon, the UK will elect a new government that doesn’t use immigration as a scapegoat, breaking up families and encouraging educated professionals to take their skills overseas as a consequence.


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