A family who were forced apart by a Home Office mix- up have been reunited in Bedford.
Shelley Hornby-Baaouani, 28, fought to bring her Tunisian husband Walid, 26, to the UK after the couple discovered that they were expecting a baby.
But their baby son Rayen saw his dad just once in the first five months of his life, after problems with calculating Shelley’s salary delayed Walid’s residency application.
Walid, who did not see his son or wife from June until last week, spoke about the heartbreaking experience.
He said: “When I dropped them at the airport it was the worst I have ever felt. I felt that I couldn’t drive, I was shaking and felt like my whole world had ended.
“Shelley had actually got home by the time I was able to leave the airport - I’ve seen so many people who never get a chance to see their families, it was awful.”
He added: “We can’t thank everyone enough for their support. I would like to thank Shelley too for everything she has done.
“She kept fighting and waited and waited for me.”
Shelley and Walid met while she was holidaying in his native country, and helped him to organise entertainment at the hotel where he worked in 2011.
The pair then travelled to see each other on a regular basis in Tunisia, and while he worked in Norway.
But after marrying, and with Shelley pregnant, the couple knew that they had to set firm roots in the UK, where Shelley works at Luton Airport.
They applied for Walid to come and live in this country, but new rules on earnings - and a mistake in calculating Shelley’s correct salary - led to delay in the application.
In desperation, Shelley contacted the Times & Citizen and in June this year we told her story.
Shelley said: “If it wasn’t for the T&C we think it would have been an even longer wait. They had said that they wouldn’t even consider us until October 17.
“After the story we appeared on TV, and a few people have contacted us with emails of support which has been lovely.
“Pam Bachu of Premier Solicitors, who fought our case, has also been brilliant and we are now just looking forward to being a normal family.”
Walid now plans to get a job to support his family, and is awaiting a National Insurance number from officials.
He said: “I don’t cost the country anything. I’m not European so I can’t have benefits from the government.”
Shelley added: “If my husband hadn’t been able to come here I would have been forced to give up my £20,000 a year job and go part time, if that had even been an option.
“I would have had to claim benefits.
“There has been a lot going on with Facebook, and three other girls who are in the same situation as us got the same letter. It didn’t say congratulations or anything like that - all it said was that they have withdrawn the original decision.”
Commenting on the new rules, a Home Office spokesman said: “British citizens who want to sponsor a spouse visa for their partner must be earning a minimum of £18,600, a threshold calculated as the level at which a couple generally ceases to be able to access income related benefits.”