Bride and groom may marry via Skype in different countries because of Home Office 'blunder'
Exclusive: Guests have flown in from around the world for £20,000 ceremony where bride is likely to be missing after visa refused
A couple fear they will be forced to hold their £20,000 wedding ceremony in separate countries after the bride was refused a visa to enter the UK and the Home Office missed the deadline to notify them.
The couple are expecting 90 guests at a lavish ceremony in Surrey this Sunday that has cost £20,000. Many of their friends and relatives have flown in especially from countries around the world.
But after the Home Office missed the deadline for notifying them of the outcome of their visa application, they face the choice of either both being absent for their wedding - or doing it via a live video link.
The couple, both 27, had planned to settle in the UK permanently but said they might have to abandon the idea and return to the US for good.
The groom, who has dual US-UK citizenship and the bride, who is American, were married in America in November.
However, the couple also wanted a wedding ceremony in Britain, where Mr Biancardi’s wealthy parents are from.
They applied in February for a spouse’s visa for Mrs Biancardi, and were optimistic of getting one.
She is a lawyer and he is a professor, Given their incomes, they said there was no chance she would have been claiming benefits.
“We wanted to get married as soon as possible because we’re very much in love, and also because my grandfather is 88 and I wanted to be near him,” Mr Biancardi told The Independent.
They started planning their UK ceremony, at Loseley Park, a Tudor manor house near Guildford, shortly after they married in California.
The Home Office promises to process applications within 12 weeks – but when they did not receive a response by the May deadline they started phoning and emailing.
“We got very little response. Often we were directed to what sounded like a call centre where they couldn’t give specific advice," Mr Biancardi said. "They were useless – they kept saying there was no decision. Even as late as 3 July they said no decision had been made.”
Despite the intervention of Mr Biancardi’s parents’ MP, Anne Milton, they were again told two weeks ago that the case was still under consideration.
Finally, out of desperation and in the hope the visa would be granted at the last minute, the couple travelled to Europe last week as the wedding preparations were being finalised.
They were bringing their two dogs with them, so flew to France, because they were allowed to take their pets in the plane, rather than in the cargo hold, which Mr Biancardi said British airlines insisted on.
On Wednesday the couple immediately headed for Calais, where Ms Biancardi explained her predicament to British officials.
“I didn’t want to lie or mislead, I wanted to do it all legally,” she said, speaking from Paris. “Apart from anything else, not being truthful would have jeopardised my career."
She added: “I kept explaining we had applied for a spouse’s visa and hadn’t had a response and I showed them the emails we had sent. The border guards kept saying ‘how do we know you’re not lying?’
“They then said the visa had been denied in May, which we didn’t know. It seemed there was nothing I could say to convince them even though we had a letter from my father-in-law confirming we wouldn’t be claiming welfare.”
Mr Biancardi, an adjunct professor of political science in California, added: "The Border Force officers said they had concerns and made us wait 45 minutes. They then put my wife through a torturous process, taking her into an office on her own, while I had to wait outside for two hours.”
His mother had put in an “insane” amount of work into the wedding preparations, including a cake, £11,000 of catering, a photographer and booking the venue, amounting to £20,000, he said.
The family would not have spent that had the Home Office informed them of the visa refusal decision, he added.
The 90 guests include 15 friends who have flown over from California for the event.
US-trained Mrs Biancardi has already sat a law conversion exam, allowing her to practise in Britain and her husband is due to begin a master’s degree in sociology at Bristol in September. Now they believe their plans might have to be overturned.
“We’re desperate to have the wedding but my biggest priority is not to disappoint my family so I’m thinking of still going there for it," she said. “We’ve been feeling incredibly depressed."
Her fiance added that if there was still no way of her entering Britain before Sunday’s ceremony, one option is for his father to hold up an iPad with a Skype link on it to France while the groom walks down the aisle.
“When we found out the spouse’s visa had been rejected it only left a few days to apply for a visitor’s visa but what are the chances of getting that in time? We feel this has been very unjust,” he said.
The Independent has asked the Home Office for a comment but it had not replied at the time of publication.