Belfast Telegraph

Lonely Christmas for blind Armagh pensioner after US wife is denied a visa 'because of his low income'

Peter O’Kane with wife Lenora
Peter O’Kane with wife Lenora
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A registered blind pensioner has said he will spend Christmas without his American wife after the Home Office turned down her visa application on the grounds that he does not make enough money.

Peter O'Kane (72) was left heartbroken after he was informed that his wife of four years, Lenora (71), had been denied a visa.

The Armagh man and his Californian wife spent £4,500 on the application and will have to spend another £140 to appeal the Home Office's decision.

Mr O'Kane suffers from retinitis pigmentosa and is blind in his left eye and losing the sight in his right.

He is largely dependent on his guide dog, Emily.

Mr O'Kane, whose sole income is a state pension, was left in disbelief when he was told that the visa had been turned down on the basis that he does not earn enough money.

His wife also suffers from serious health problems after she was involved in a road accident in which four people died.

"She was a truck driver," explained Mr O'Kane, who moved to Armagh from Scotland 35 years ago.

"She was on the highway in California and there was a big accident up ahead.

"She came to a halt and tried to warn others behind her, but another lorry driver behind her was speeding and his trailer jackknifed when he stopped and hit my wife's cab.

"She took a heart attack over it and had a five-way bypass, which left her the way that she is today.

"She can walk, but only with the help of a frame. She showed me where it happened when I was over there visiting her."

The couple met six years ago at a cowboy group in Canada and got talking about country music.

Mr O'Kane stayed in touch with his now wife on Facebook and suggested that she travel to Northern Ireland to meet his family and because she has relatives here.

After meeting each other's families, the pair got married in California four years ago.

Mr O'Kane now wants his wife here with him but, with the visa being refused, does not know what the future holds.

"She was told she would get the visa on Sunday, but we got a phone call from my solicitor telling me it had been refused on the grounds that I'm not earning enough money," he said.

"I'm on a state pension, so I can't earn extra money.

"The solicitor has appealed on my behalf and we will just take it from there.

"The appeal is costing me £140 and I've already spent £4,500 on the visa.

"Lenora is just devastated about it.

"I just don't know what's going to happen, to tell you the truth.

The Home Office said that it was willing to reconsider the application.

A spokesperson added: "A decision was taken to refuse the application as the evidential requirements of the rules were not met.

"Mrs O'Kane will be provided with a further opportunity to submit the required information.

"On receipt of this, the application will be reconsidered in full."

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