Visa blow to OAPs' long-distance romance

PUBLISHED: 06:30 17 August 2015

Shirley Stevens and her Australian partner Allan Charlton are pleading with authorities to allow them to marry

Shirley Stevens and her Australian partner Allan Charlton are pleading with authorities to allow them to marry

Archant

A chance meeting in Exmouth, which led to pensioners Allan Charlton and Shirley Stevens falling in love, has left them pleading with immigration authorities to allow them to marry.

Shirley Stevens, 76, from Woodbury, and Australian Allan Charlton, 71, met by chance last year when they both turned up at Exmouth Stroke Survivors’ Club.

When Allan returned to Australia, he kept in touch with Shirley - and they fell in love and decided to marry.

But they have been forced into long-distance love, putting their wedding plans on hold, because UK immigration officials have refused their marriage visa request.

The couple, who plan to stay together come what may, say their only other chance of a happy-ever-after is to fly to Australia in November, where they could wed, or apply for the visa to marry in the UK.

But a wedding abroad would be expensive for the pensioners, costing around £3,000.

Allan, who is currently in the UK on a five-month visitor visa, has admitted they are frustrated and do not know what to do next.

He claims immigration officials told them to prove their relationship was real.

Allan said: “It’s appalling. They want us to provide evidence of our relationship – how do you do that?

“We had to complete an 11-page-long document, but it was denied.

“The plan is now to go to Australia and apply for our licence there.”

The couple met last summer when former university lecturer Allan arrived in the UK for a five-month stay.

Allan, who suffered a stroke in 2011 and got divorced a year later, met Shirley, who has been a widow for 15 years, when he walked into the town’s library, where the pair was attending the same meeting of the stroke survivors’ club.

Shirley said: “I never expected to find love, but you never know what’s around the corner.”

When Allan asked the group for help reviewing a book he had written, Shirley raised her hand; she had some past experience of reviewing medical books.

Once Allan had flown back to Australia, the couple continued to communicate over email on a professional basis.

Their messages became more personal and they admitted their love for each other after Shirley shared her feelings.

“She was feeling pretty much the same as me at the same time,” said Allan.

“She was a lot braver than I and she sent me an email.”

Allan proposed to Shirley via email and last month flew back to the UK to be reunited with his fiancée for the first time since they met.

A Home Office spokesman said: “In order to prevent abuse of the immigration rules, all visitors must leave the UK at the end of their stay.

“It is not possible for a visitor to switch to a spousal visa while they are here and anyone who wishes to apply for a spousal visa must do so from outside the UK.”

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