Warwick soldier ‘forced out of UK’ by immigration laws

Andrew with Wanda and two-year-old Gracie
Andrew with Wanda and two-year-old Gracie

A Warwick “war hero” said he feels let down by his country after being told his family cannot live in the UK because he does not earn enough.

Andrew McLaughlin said he has been left with no choice but to move to America to live with his wife, Wanda and two-year-old daughter, Gracie after a “humiliating” and drawn-out immigration row.

The former soldier who has lived in Warwick since the age of five, has been battling to get Wanda -who comes from Puerto Rico but lives in New Jersey - permission to live with him in Warwickshire.

The pair met when Andrew was in the States visiting family, and were married soon afterwards.

But Wanda, 37, was rejected a UK resident visa because Andrew’s wage as a trainee HGV driver in the town does not meet the £18,600 minimum as set by the Home Office.

Andrew, 29 said after six months and a humiliating incident where his wife was refused entry at Heathrow last year, he has now decided to join them in America and start a new life.

I am missing out on seeing my two-year-old daughter grow up, but I am being pushed out of my country for which I put my life on the line.

Andrew McLaughlin

But that after fighting for his country, the decision is unfairly forcing him from his home and where he wants to raise his family.

Andrew is a Warwickshire College graduate and served with the Grenadier Guards 1st Battalion for four years -including a tour in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province where he fought on the front line.

He said he was praised by his superiors as an “excellent Guardsman” but refused re-entry due to MOD cuts.

And that he has now lost hope in the UK government and simply wants to see his daughter grow up.

Guardsman Andrew McLaughlin

Guardsman Andrew McLaughlin

He said: “I’m being forced out of my own country and this is the only way for me to see my family after months apart.

“The most important thing here is for me to be with them, and we have been trying for so long with no success.

“I am missing out on seeing my two-year-old daughter grow up, but I am being pushed out of my country for which I put my life on the line.

“I am not giving up, there just seems no way the decision will be reversed and I do not have time to wait any more.

Andrew and his family who now live in America

Andrew and his family who now live in America

“Our lives are on hold and it is not right that we are being treated in this way purely over money when I have fought for this country.”

The Home Office requirements state that a person must earn at least £18,600 to support a foreign spouse - a law designed to prevent them being dependant on the state.

As Andrew’s daughter holds a British passport she is not affected by the restraints.

The rules were introduced in 2013 and have so far seen tens of thousands of couples refused rights to UK entry.

Andrew, who has born in England, also has American citizenship because his father, Richard, is from Pennsylvania.

Richard McLaughlin, 67 and a former University of Warwick Engineering researcher said his son has been “shamefully treated” simply over money.

Richard, who is putting together a Parliamentary petition to challenge the law, said: “Andrew simply does not earn enough money yet but they do not take into account pay once he finishes training, or Wanda’s prospects as a successful retail manager.

“The sad thing is that this family would never be a burden on the state, he has the support of his family and he and his daughter Gracie are both British citizens.

“The guidelines are morally flawed and here is a war hero trying to do the best for his family.”