There goes the bride

Immigration staff stop her going to her own wedding, but at least there was a reception.


Guests celebrated into the night at a wedding reception notable for one absence - the bride.

Israeli Sivan Ben Abu, 29, wasn't there because immigration officers had stopped her entering the UK.

She'd flown from Tel Aviv to Luton Airport for what should have been a civil ceremony with her British fiancé Oliver Stopnitzky.

But the sales executive was held overnight and questioned before being sent back to Israel.

Ms Abu who has dual citizenship with the US, was due to marry Mr Stopnitzky, 27, from Barnet at a register office in Southgate with a reception at his grandparents' house.

The service was cancelled so 80 family and friends, some of whom had travelled from the US, were left to enjoy the wedding fare as best they could.

She said: "One of the most important days of my life has been ruined. It was supposed to be a day for our UK family and friends to celebrate with us because we are having the main wedding in Israel later in the month.

"I had family come all the way from America and I wasn't even allowed to be there on the day. They had to go to my wedding without me, it doesn't bear thinking about. Oliver and I have been working so hard over a year to keep our relationship strong and this was our chance to start our lives together.

"All we ever wanted was to do things properly. But Immigration made me feel like a criminal. They questioned me aggressively about every little detail and searched my things.

"Words can't describe how awful it was. I was crying hysterically. I almost fainted when my fingerprints and photo were taken. The officers were rude and ignored my requests to speak with a manager.

After seeking the advice of a government-approved immigration advisor, the couple applied for a Fiancé Visa on her US passport.

The application was turned down a month before the wedding because officials didn't think their relationship was genuine.

But Mr Stopnitzky, who works for the Fraud Advisory Panel said: "I used an immigration advisor because we wanted to do things properly and avoid this kind of horror story.

"When we got the rejection I immediately launched an appeal providing photos, flight details, emails and WhatsApp conversations, all evidence showing the genuine nature of our relationship.

"I even submitted seven statements from people who know us and know we have been a couple all this time. But the appeal process can take up to 19 weeks which would have meant we miss the wedding."

He said the register office told him it was still possible for his fiancé to travel to the UK, despite the appeal and that he didn't need to cancel their plans. But when she arrived at Luton, immigration officials told her it was illegal to travel to the UK with the intention of getting married having been denied a visa application.

She said: "I showed my Israeli passport. They asked me if I had another and I said yes. The officer was instantly aggressive and asked me 'why didn't I show the US one'. I explained because I booked the flight with my Israeli one like I always do and showed her the stamps to prove it.

"Then she asked me 'have I had any problems with immigration' I said no and she told me I was 'lying' and brought up the failed visa application.

"We will marry in Natanya in a few weeks in front of 200 people but I can't even enjoy it as this black cloud hangs over me.

"I'm going to be married and separated from my husband when we should be settling down."

An Immigration spokesman said: "All visa applications are considered on their individual merits in line with the Immigration Rules.

"Any foreign national coming here to get married must ensure they have the necessary clearance to enter the UK. Ms Abu was stopped at the UK border because she did not have the correct visa. She is free to make a further application for leave to enter the UK."

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