A MUM has spoken of the incredible moment she was reunited with her children two days before Christmas after an eight-month visa struggle.
Patcharee Peacock, who is known as Pat, had been refused a spousal visa enabling her to re-enter the UK and return to her home in Lymington, which she shares with husband James (40) and their three children Jeanna, Jensen and Junior.
The family had faced the prospect of Christmas without her after the Home Office made a blunder by claiming the whole family had lived in Thailand for 11 years. Pat (35) had flown there in January to look after her sick father, who had suffered a stroke.
However, after the case was highlighted by the A&T, Home Office officials made a U-turn and granted Pat a visa that allowed her to fly home on 23rd December.
“Seeing the children after 11 months away was just incredible,” said Pat. “I couldn’t believe how much they had grown and changed. We had been video calling each other a lot but it’s not the same as seeing them face-to-face.
“It was very emotional – I can never ever explain how happy I was to see them all.”
Daughter Jeanna (11) said: “It was just amazing when we saw mum come through the airport. Her luggage had taken a long time to come out so we were just waiting, then there she was.”
Pat told the A&T she could not understand how the Home Office had come to the conclusion the family had spent the last 11 years living in Thailand.
“Both our sons, Jensen (7) and Junior (6), were born at Southampton Hospital.”
Recalling leaving for Thailand in January, Pat said: “At the time when I got the call to say my father was very ill, I just had to go. I only packed a couple of changes of clothes and a laptop and mobile phone.
“I thought I would be there for a few weeks or a couple of months at most. Within a day of the call I was on the plane flying to Thailand to be with him.”
After caring for her father and then overseeing arrangements for him to move in with her brother, Pat began to make plans to return home to Lymington.
“I never realised it was going to be so difficult for me to come back again,” she said. “When we applied for the visa we thought it would be quite straightforward. We came to live in the UK when Jeanna was one and I had an EU citizen’s visa so we just assumed it would be simple.”
Evidence the children attended local schools and the family had lived in England for over 10 years had been sent with the visa application, and James repeatedly tried to point out to the Home Office their mistake, but he was told he would have to go through the official appeal procedure which can take months.
Pat said: “James flew out to see me for the weekend in early December but he could only stay for a few days because Jensen and Jeanna had their birthdays on 5th December.
“We wanted to bring the children out as well but we just couldn’t afford the flights for them all. They were all very upset when James left, and Jensen even said: ‘I already have no mummy and now my daddy is gone too’.”
Pat recalls it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye, as James left her at the airport to fly back to the UK. “We were both just crying and shaking, and just hoping that we could be together again for Christmas.
“It has been the best Christmas ever for all of us,” she said. “I just can’t believe how much the kids have grown up – we have been having these brilliant conversations and laughing and joking together.
“It is wonderful to be back with them and lovely that we have had the school holidays to spend together.”
As well as making it back for a family Christmas, Pat was also thrilled to be back by James’s side in time for his 40th birthday celebrations at Lymington’s Royal British Legion Club on 30th December.
Pat said: “It was a really special celebration. We had about 50 friends and family – and it was the first time I had seen lots of them since I’d been back. It was a little overwhelming but just so amazing to see everyone. James said it was a birthday party and coming home party all in one.”
When Pat was away James had struggled with the challenges of running his business Peacock Computers and looking after the three children.
“James’s parents have been an incredible support to him, picking up the children and babysitting and helping out with the house,” said Pat.
“But it has been really tough for him – when he went back to work this morning, he just said how brilliant it was to know the children were at home with me and he didn’t have to worry.”
“Apart from my family I have missed my friends so much too. My life is here.
“I missed all the little things like getting the children up in the morning and doing their breakfast, doing the school run, meeting friends for a coffee – the things that you just take for granted.”