British Citizenship ordeal of Thai mum and son living legally in Skegness
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Love bloomed for local ‘plant man’ Steve Matthews when he lived for a time in Thailand and, after marrying there, he brought his wife, Wachira, and son Itsaret (Sam) Phaonsurin back to the UK with him.
However, although they had taken the correct proceedure through the British Embassy in Thailand and Wachira and Sam have lifetime Visas to like in the UK, having lived here so long they decided they wanted to apply for their British Citizenship.
"I wanted to be able to say I’m British because people don’t realise what you have to go through to even get a lifetime Visa and be accepted in Britain in the first place,” explained Wachira. “People are sometimes unkind and ask why I am still working as ‘foreign people get everything free.”
As Wachira had worked since coming to Britain and attained an English qualification at college – and Sam was educated in Skegness through a local nursery, primary school and secondary school – they thought the application would be straighforward.
However, after spending £4,000 and having travelled miles around the country taking and retaking tests, mainly due to computer glitches, there was still a risk the Home Office would turn down the application and it would have all been for nothing.
The centre of the frustration is the controversial Life In The UK Test – described as a ‘trial by trivia’ in 2022 when it was the focus of a call to the Home Office for reform by Baroness Hamwee, chair of the House of Lords justice and home affairs committee. She described the test, which quizzes immigrants on a series of “random” facts as “trivial”, “outdated”, and “undermining British values”.
At the time content covered by the Life In The UK Test includes how a person should react when spilling beer over someone in a pub – and where the founder of the UK’s first curry house eloped with his wife.
According to Steve, the questions are still as random.
"My wife failed the test twice, both times on just one question,” Steve said. “One of the questions was: ‘What memorial was dedicated to the fallen of the World Wars in 1958?’
"I’ve lived here all my life and couldn’t have answered that.
"You can’t even apply for British Citizenship until you have lived in the UK for five years – it would be much fairer to ask questions on those five years.
"The system is a joke – I’m beginning to think it’s just money-making scheme for government.”
Sam, who has a marketing apprenticeship locally, has also been frustrated by the system. “There was a problem with the computer when I took my English test and they apologised to me because the person on the other end was in a foreign country!,” he said. “That is how rediculous this system is. How can Britain expect to attract more nurses to this country when they have to go though all this?”