A Kenyan woman has told of the “surreal moment” when her application to visit her husband in Nottingham finally got accepted after a long row with the Home Office. Now, the married couple can breathe a sigh of relief as they were reunited in UK for the first time.
Sylvia Spowage, 37, has been married to Nottingham painter Pete Spowage for five years. What started as a “holiday fling” years ago in an exotic location in East Africa ended with the couple getting married at the registry office in Mombasa, Kenya in March 2017.
And apart from the times when Mr Spowage flies over to Kenya to meet up with his wife, their communication is reduced to texts and video calls on WhatsApp. On his latest trip at the end of November last year, however, he had planned to stay in Kenya for four months before returning with his wife in March.
READ MORE: Nottingham artist angry after Kenyan wife’s visa application to visit UK is rejected
She had never been to the UK before and applied for a visitor visa in January. However, on January 24, Mr Spowage’s stay in Kenya was cut short after receiving some worrying news from home – and he had to fly back to the UK due to a family emergency.
As misfortunes never come alone, shortly after he took off, Mrs Spowage received the news that her visitor visa application was rejected. The married couple were left utterly heartbroken, prompting Mr Spowage to seek advice and help from organisations in Nottingham.
“I just did not hear back from anyone”, he said, while remembering the depressing time away from his wife. At the beginning of February, he spoke to Nottinghamshire Live from his art gallery on Mansfield Road surrounded by empty canvas that he did not have the inspiration, nor energy, to paint.
A few days after the article was published, Mrs Spowage received a call from the embassy in Nairobi, asking her to bring her passport. She refused to go at first because she thought she will only get a stamp on her passport that would certify her visa application was rejected. But after a number of insistent calls, she picked up the phone and asked the reason for the request. What happened next made her feel joy “like never before”, she says.
“They told me that my visa got approved for February 11 and they needed my passport”, she added. “I called Pete immediately. It was so surreal. It came out of nowhere, just days after that article was published. I was hoping that it would make a difference but I never thought it would.”
Mrs Spowage said she loves Nottingham and her favourite aspect about the city is the double-decker buses. She loves sitting at the front, upstairs, and see everything passing by from above. She is starting to get used to the weather as well, and is due to leave UK in August, just before the British rainy days would return.
“I also love to go shopping. White Rose is my absolute favourite”, she said. “And everyone is so polite here and nice, always smiling and nice to everyone.”
She is hoping that she will be able to come and visit her husband’s homeland more often now. “I think I would like to move here at some point in the future”, Mrs Spowage added. “But not now. I have all my family in Kenya and there is just too much that I would leave behind.”
The Kenyan wife looked at Mr Spowage, who was wearing a paint stained hoodie while working on a canvas in his studio on Mansfield Road. She smiled, and said: “Wherever I am, as long as I am with Pete then I am happy”.
The once blank canvas turned into finished artworks that were hanging on the walls of the studio. Mr Spowage, now a happy husband, added: “It changed our lives, and I am grateful to Nottingham Post for that. We did not submit a new application, it all got approved a few days after the article was published. It was so surreal.”
He added: “I was so surprised by the amount of people who read the article and the reaction it got. I was so depressed, I could not paint, I was not myself. I thought about leaving everything and going to Kenya.”
The married couple, finally reunited, said they got the happy ending that they waited so long for. “Now she is finally here”, he said. “I want to show Sylvia the country, I want to show her both the good and bad parts. I am just so happy that she was able to come here in the end. And we are so happy that she got a visa.”
Nottinghamshire Live approached Home Office for comment.
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