They met, fell in love and married 14 years ago – only to have their lives ripped apart when immigration officials stopped them living together in the UK.
Now, 18 months after their struggle with the Home Office started, Robert and Adna Cooper are back in each others’ arms in Dudley after winning a landmark appeal.
Adna, aged 35, has been granted a visa to move back to the UK from her homeland of Brazil to be with her 39-year-old husband.
After flying out to Sao Paulo the following month, Robert was finally able to bring his wife home to Pensnett, arriving back two days before she landed at Heathrow last week.
The pair, who have spent about £5,000 on legal costs, are now desperate to settle down again and move on with their lives following their long ordeal.
Robert, who is a pastor for the First Renewal Presbyterian Church, said: “When I picked her up from the airport we were both just totally overwhelmed, utterly overwhelmed.
“I was really pleased to see her happy.
“It has been really difficult for her. She felt almost like a second class citizen, not being allowed to return here with me. We’ve both found it difficult coming to terms with it all.”
Adna said: “It was an extremely difficult period for me, the whole situation of being refused, being apart, unable to carry on with our lives, spending all our savings was unbearable.
“It is hard enough to restart our lives in a new place but it was even harder when only one of us were allowed to do so.”
The couple first met while Robert, a former pupil at Pensnett School, was doing missionary work in suburbs outside Sao Paulo in October in 1999.
They returned to the UK the following year and she was given a resident visa before they married at Kingswinford Christian Centre in July.
But after returning to Brazil in 2003, the pair encountered problems on wanting to return ten years later.
Under new immigration rules, only British people who earn more than £18,600 can sponsor their non-European spouse’s visa. Robert earned enough, but he was unable to get payslips to prove it due to his employer being a non-profit organisation.
Their application for a visa for Adna was refused and despite a brief stay on a tourist visa last year, the pair have been forced to live apart. However, on appeal, the pair managed to overturn the Home Office decision after giving evidence at a hearing in Birmingham.
Robert said: “I know the government has to take certain measures because I can see the situation in the UK, but I just feel they need to start thinking of the welfare of family.
“They are discriminating and being unfair to many families. We are not just numbers and names, we are people.
He added: “I married Adna 14 years ago, but it was not a question of what our relationship was, it was about six payslips.
“We wanted to save money to start a new life, but we’ve spent so much having to start again, just to get this visa. It’s certainly taken a lot out of us, but we’re keen to start again.”
Adna said: “Now I feel relieved, as if a load has been lifted from me, I am ready to start over again, now I am excited about this new beginning.
“We received loads of support from hundreds of people, there is even a community page on face book that a friend made for us and we are very thankful for all the support.”
The pair are living at Robert’s parents’ home in Comber Drive in Pensnett.
They hope to find their own home while Adna looks for a job. Robert works at churches in London and the Midlands.
He said: “It’s taking time to settle in. But now, at least, we can look ahead and plan our future together.” Adna said: “We got married in England, we lived three years together in this country, I had a permanent visa to remain.
“I worked and paid taxes here and we have been together for 14 years, I strongly believe that all of it should be taken into consideration before refusing me the right to be with my husband in his own country.
“We are just one case among thousands, there are many cases whereby if you don’t earn a certain amount you don’t have the right to love anybody outside the EU.”
The couple have received support from Dudley South MP Chris Kelly. On refusal of their initial visa application, the Home Office said Adna failed to meet the requirements of immigration rules.Subscribe to our Newsletter