Home Secretary James Cleverly announced a series of measures to reduce net migration on Monday. (Alamy) (Images by Jordan Pettitt, PA)
New immigration rules that could result in Brits earning less than £38,700 being unable to live with their foreign spouses have been branded “draconian”, “discriminatory” and “anti-family” by campaigners and lawyers.
Changes to the minimum income requirement for family visas announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly mean that people may be prevented from bringing their relatives to stay in the country in certain circumstances.
Cleverly said, British citizens must earn at least £38,700 to support foreign family members who want to obtain a visa.
Figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that as of 2020/21, the 73rd percentile of the UK population earned less than they did this month, meaning just under three quarters of Brits could be excluded under the new proposals.
The current minimum income to support a spouse or civil partner is £18,600 – more than half the newly proposed amount – sparking fears that the latest reform could tear even more families apart.
The policy, expected to be introduced next spring, was unveiled by Cleverly as part of a package of proposals aimed at achieving the biggest reduction in net migration ever after levels rose to a record high.
We are completely devastated by the Home Secretary’s decision to increase the minimum income to £38,700. Which will come into force in the spring.
Our hearts are breaking for every couple and every family right now.
We will keep you updated with more information as we know it
— Reunite Families UK 🧡 (@ReuniteDivFamil) December 4, 2023
The story goes on
The ONS revised its net immigration figure, putting the 2022 figure at a record 745,000.
Cleverly said his new strategy, along with previously announced plans to restrict the entry of relatives of foreign students into the country, would reduce the number by 300,000.
Immigration lawyers have said changing the minimum income requirement for family visas will not significantly reduce the number and that the pain of preventing people from living with the person they love is not worth the benefits.
“Fundamentally, you shouldn’t fall in love with someone from abroad,” immigration attorney Katie Newbury told Yahoo News.
The lawyer at law firm Kingsley Napley, who specializes in immigration issues, said she was “really shocked” by Cleverly’s announcement and would not be surprised if a legal challenge was filed against it.
She said before a minimum income threshold of £18,600 was first introduced in 2012, people only had to prove they could support themselves without relying on public funds.
Now Newbury says that while the foreign spouse of a British citizen could earn a significant amount of money, this would not count towards the £38,700 minimum if they first came to the country.
A foreign partner would only be able to count their income towards the application if they are earning money in the UK, which is unlikely to be the case if they haven’t even arrived in the country yet.
If relying on income from employment or self-employment, this must be on behalf of the Brit or the resident partner, Newbury said, although depending on the type of income the money could be earned either in the UK or abroad.
Newbury added that applicants will have to earn an additional amount for each of their non-British children, meaning the threshold could be even higher for many families.
Whilst foreign spouses cannot rely on their income from abroad as this may not be available to them in the UK, they can rely on savings and investments under current rules.
Downing Street has since confirmed that the minimum income of £38,700 applies to a “household as a whole”.
The amount you need to earn to apply for a spouse visa under the new proposals is £37,800
Average salary in England last year:
Men – £35,658
Women – £29,699
Absolutely dark – against family, against love, against humanity. To these people we are all just economic units. pic.twitter.com/k8TJPS7jcg
— Ruth Stokes 🧡 (@ruthstokes) December 4, 2023
Even the current lower minimum income has taken its toll: a 2015 report by the Children’s Commissioner said 15,000 children were living in so-called “Skype families” because both parents could not live together.
With the average gross annual earnings for full-time workers in the UK in April 2023 standing at £34,963, according to the ONS, Newbury says the new proposal will see “significantly more” families being torn apart.
“I have clients who have money but don’t follow the rules in a certain way. There are people who stay with family for free, they have no accommodation costs, but it doesn’t matter.”
“When they came up with that figure of £18,600 in 2012, a lot of consultation followed about what they thought was the minimum to stop people accessing public money. This latest number seems to have come out of nowhere.”
“These are not big numbers. So if you’re worried about reducing net immigration, that’s not going to achieve anything. We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of people coming in as spouses of British citizens.”
“Draconian, discriminatory and pointless”
Jonathan Portes, an economics professor at King’s College University who specializes in immigration and labor mobility, told Yahoo News the family visa proposal was “very draconian by international standards.”
He added that given the distribution of income in the UK, the policy would be “discriminatory based on gender, ethnicity and place of residence in the country”.
“It is very important to say that this rule applies to British people marrying and does not just affect immigrants,” he added.
Some critics have argued that the Home Office’s language referring to bringing “relatives” to the UK is intended to distract from the fact that British nationals are being prevented from bringing their partners.
Portes added: “I think this is some sort of clearly socially unfair and draconian rule that serves no real purpose.”
I suspect this is deliberately vague: it means Brits must earn at least £38,700 (which needs to be proven in some concrete way) if they want to bring their partner to the UK https://t.co/vtXnOrFlPL
— Katie Newbury (@KatieNewburyKN) December 4, 2023
“It’s not like there’s a lot of public concern about people who marry people earning £25,000 a year marrying foreigners.”
“I don’t think the British public are worried about them in terms of immigration and the numbers in these cases are not that high.”
“It’s hard not to see this kind of xenophobic gesture towards parts of the Tory right without specific social or economic reasons, but that’s my personal opinion.”
With the new £38,700 requirement, about “three quarters of workers” would be ineligible to support a partner, according to immigration lawyer Colin Yeo.
“They either need to split up and live in different countries or move abroad together,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“The impact on the children affected is profound. Women, part-time workers, ethnic minorities and everyone outside London will be disproportionately affected. British citizens returning from abroad will also be severely affected.”
Meanwhile, Ben Ansell, professor of comparative democratic institutions at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, wrote: “It is deeply unconservative to say that only people earning above the 73rd percentile of the income distribution can live with the one they love. A very, very misguided statement.” Politics.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said on Tuesday: “The Family Immigration Regulations contain a provision for exceptional circumstances where refusal of the application would have unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner, a relevant child or other family member.”
No examples of such circumstances were given and the spokesman said applications would be considered on a “case by case” basis.
Source : uk.news.yahoo.com