The Vietnamese couple accused by the Directorate of Immigration of having a sham marriage have come forward, and attest that their love is true.
Thi Thuy Nguyen and Hao Van Tio spoke to Vísir about a recent decision from the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) which declared their marriage a sham after engaging in an investigation the couple’s lawyer believes went beyond the Directorate’s investigative authority.
“This is true love and a true story,” they told reporters. “We got married, for real, out of love.”
The couple first met when the woman, 22, visited Iceland in 2013, as she has family in the country. The man, who has a permanent residence permit, has lived in Iceland since childhood. Later that same year, she became pregnant and they got married. Their daughter was born in September 2014. Ever since they filed their marriage license with UTL, Hao says, the Directorate has been keeping tabs on them.
“If UTL suspects this is a sham marriage, why don’t they conduct a real investigation?,” Hao said. “Why have they not looked at the details in a greater context? The police can visit any time they want. They can take a blood sample that will prove I am the father of our daughter. Instead, UTL is trying to drag this out, and that is having an impact on our family. I am working alone to support our family and that is very difficult.”
Thuy would like to work, and has been hired for a janitorial job, but cannot accept it as UTL will not grant her the rights conveyed by her marriage. She would also like to learn Icelandic, but without the financial means to do so, cannot.
What would normally be an open-and-shut case of granting the young wife and mother residency became a police matter, when UTL sent a copy of the couple’s wedding video to police in December 2014 and contended that they believed the marriage was a sham. This was based on their opinion that the bride did not look happy in the video. It has not been disclosed how UTL got their hands on the video in question.
Two months later, in February of this year, UTL asked the couple to come in for an interview to discuss their situation. Five months after that, the couple received a letter telling them UTL believed their marriage to be a lie. They also accused the couple of giving UTL false information, which the Directorate emphasised could result in jail time for them.
The couple have naturally denied all of these accusations. They say that the reason why the woman did not look especially happy in the video was because, while emotionally happy to be getting married, she was still newly pregnant and experiencing the hormonally-induced sickness that comes with it. Further, the “false information” was due to a cultural misunderstanding: in Vietnam, the groom typically pays for the wedding, and it is considered unseemly for the bride to ask or know how much was paid. This, the couple says, is why the woman could not provide detailed information on how the wedding was financed.
More bizarrely, UTL stated in their letter to police that “information has come from the National Hospital that the woman was very young and childlike”. Hospital officials said they had no knowledge of this case, but when Vísir spoke again with UTL, an official for the Directorate said they received an anonymous tip from the hospital about the couple.
“The Directorate of Immigration does not have the same investigative authority as the police,” Björg Valgeirsdóttir, the lawyer for the couple, told reporters, adding that the hospital does not have the right to discuss confidential patient matters with a third party.
“To contend that their marriage is staged is nothing but a pretext, and prevents my client from enjoying her and her family’s rights in this country,” she said.