More than a decade into their marriage, Luca and Thabisile Cirignaco had expected to be settled into a home of their own and perhaps be starting a family.

Instead, despite Mr Cirignaco’s British citizenship, they face battle after battle with the Home Office to try and ensure that Ms Cirignaco, who is originally from South Africa, can stay in Glasgow.

“It’s been very unsettling not knowing, not having that feeling of security,” Mr Cirignaco said. “We don’t know if we can stay and continue our life here or whether we have to leave.

“I never foresaw what we’re having to go through.

“I honestly believed that we will be able to return immediately after getting married and by now we would have our own house here, that we would be settled and having a family of our own.”

The couple met in London in 2011 and got married in South Africa a year later. After their marriage, they spent just under two years in Italy while Ms Cirignaco applied for a visa to return to the UK.

After a short-term six-month leave to stay, she was granted a five-year visa, which they have been trying to renew for more than two years but have been knocked back three times during that period.

Mr Cirignaco, 39, who was born in Glasgow, fears his dual citizenship in the UK and Italy is being used as an excuse to “get rid” of the two of them.

“I just feel very hard done by, being a British citizen, that it is as if they are trying to get rid of my wife and me,” he said.

“I’m a British citizen, I’ve lived here most of my life and throughout all the years of working I have always been a good citizen.”

The latest refusal to their case came at the beginning of last month with the response stating there were no “insurmountable obstacles” that prevented them from living “outside the UK in South Africa”.

However, the 39-year-old works with his family’s business running a hotel based in Glasgow and wishes to remain close to his family.

“We’re a very tight-knit family, we are very close, and we have had our own family business for many years,” he said.

“I was brought up in the business and it’s everything I’ve ever known really.”

The couple objected to suggestions they could live outside of the UK and spoke of how life was “impossible” for them during the brief spell living in Italy awaiting the first visa.

Speaking on the year and ten months spent in Italy, Mr Cirignaco said: “That was not out of choice. I was only able to find work there in the first year that we were there.”

The work they did find was seasonal, and despite “handing out their CVs everywhere” they struggled to find employment.

He added: “We had to rely on our savings to get by and survive. We simply could not see how we could live there when we were not getting a job anywhere.”

Returning to South Africa also poses challenges of employment and accommodation which are not an issue in Scotland.

Ms Cirignaco added: “It’s not as if we’ll go back and automatically have somebody employ us or even have accommodation.”

Long waits for responses from the Home Office have also slowed down their efforts to find a solution.

Ms Cirignaco said: “The processing time was not too bad on this one but before that, all the other ones just seem to take too long.

“It was well over a year we were waiting and not knowing what was going on.”

After their most recent application was refused, the married couple are now taking their case to First-tier Tribunal.

Speaking on being knocked back in November, Mr Cirignaco said: “When my wife and I received the decision we both just broke down.

“We have been crying and crying. We have had to let our family here know and let our family in South Africa know and it has been really hard to say it without crying and to see the pain in their eyes.”

He added: “It’s not easy.”

The long-winded fight for Ms Cirignaco, 38, to be granted a visa has put a halt on all of their future plans, but also has meant she cannot visit her family.

“Everything is just centred around this,” she said.

“It’s really stressful because it’s impacted everything that we do. We don’t know whether we can move forward or are we moving backwards. We just do not know.”

Mr Cirignaco added: “With us having family here and in South Africa, we just feel absolutely distraught and heartbroken.

“If we are stuck here, we cannot see our family in South Africa and if we go to South Africa we cannot return here and see our family here.”

The issues have meant they cannot even try and plan simple things to do in the next year as it “always comes back to the same point of what if we’re not here next year”, Ms Cirignaco added.

Long-term plans for their future are also in limbo for the couple as Home Office and legal fees put pressure on their savings.

The 39-year-old added: “Over the years since we have been back in the UK, we’ve been trying to save up our money while working because I would love to buy my wife a house.

“I just feel like we keep getting knocked back. Every time we begin to see some results in saving up, I have to then go back to lawyers and Home Office fees.

“It’s brutal. It’s a horrible situation.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “All visa applications are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the immigration rules.”

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