The government’s drive to cut immigration risks splitting up families

In two weeks time the daughter of one of my friends will get married. This happy occasion will be marred by the fact that soon after the wedding her new husband may have to leave the UK. Despite his high earning potential, new rules about family migration, introduced in July 2012, will exclude him from obtaining a spouse’s visa.

In two weeks time the daughter of one of my friends will get married. This happy occasion will be marred by the fact that soon after the wedding her new husband may have to leave the UK. Despite his high earning potential, new rules about family migration, introduced in July 2012, will exclude him from obtaining a spouse’s visa.

All of us drew little comfort today from the latest immigration statistics. This data show a 23 per cent fall in family migration in the year to September 2012, compared with the year to September 2011.

The immigration statistics are being heralded by the government as proof that its goal of reducing net migration is working. There has been a fall in net migration from 242,000 in the year to September 2011 to 153,000 over the 12 months to September 2012.

Work visa, family and student migration are down, although reductions in student migration have mostly been born by the further education and English language sectors, where numbers have fallen by 46 per cent compared with the preceding year.

Asylum applications have increased a little and more worryingly, so have asylum backlogs which have now increased by 24 per cent. There is no evidence of floods of eastern European migrants, with migration from this group down by a staggering 19 per cent over the previous year.

Family migration has fallen to 62,000 in the year to September 2012. This group includes people who are accompanying  immediate family who have come to study or to work, but also a larger group who have applied to come to the UK on a family visa as spouses, civil partners or dependent relatives.

Some 40,925 people were admitted to the UK on family visas in the year to September 2012. This figure has fallen and is likely to continue to fall as the new family migration rules take hold. These rules apply to any British citizen who wants to bring in a spouse or dependent relative from outside the EU. They do not apply to EU nationals with a non-EU family dependent, an illustration of the arbitrary nature of these changes.

The rule changes introduce a £18,600 minimum income threshold (to be maintained over 12 months) for a person who wants to bring a spouse to the UK. This figure was reached as being a level where a person is ‘fiscally neutral’ that is when he or she is not longer entitled to income-related benefits such as tax credits.

But the application of this threshold again seems arbitrary.

Property, savings under £16,000, the overseas spouses earnings and job offers are excluded from the calculation. Moreover, the income threshold test is applied three times before a spouse can achieve permanent settlement.

There are other changes to family migration rules. A spouse or other family migration applicant now has to wait five years instead of two before permanent settlement is granted. The pre-admission English language ‘test’ has been made more difficult. And the right to appeal against refusal of a family migration visa has now been removed, despite 36 per cent of these appeals being successful in 2011.

Additionally, a little debated change has changed the approach to challenging family migration decisions using Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. Failure to meet the requirements of the family migration rules now effectively excludes an Article Eight claim.

Calculations undertaken by campaign groups show that the income threshold means that 45 per cent of British population cannot now potentially bring in a spouse. Moreover, this change discriminates against women, those in low income jobs or those who live in regions with lower wages. Campaigners against the rule changes have accumulated many testimonies of families torn apart by the rule changes.

Those from all ethnic groups are affected, like ‘S’ who despite having a new job with a  salary of £35,000 could not bring in her Brazilian husband as she had not had her job for a 12 month period.

An inquiry from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration is due to report on the family rule changes on 10 June. But Labour has remained disappointingly silent on this issue. At a time when all political parties stake a claim to being family friendly, it is sad that this sentiment does not extend to migration.

5 Responses to “The government’s drive to cut immigration risks splitting up families”

  1. kapronkid

    There is no obligation to live in the UK , or am I missing something here

  2. kapronkid

    once married, there is no obligation to live in the UK, or am I missing something here ?

  3. Tab

    While it’s definitely unfair, let’s not let Labour completely off the
    hook here. They were up in arms about these changes, yet were adamant for
    their entire time in power that a child born before July 1 2006 to an unmarried
    British father should never ever acquire UK citizenship. Funny how
    Fiona MacTaggart MP was just moaning on about these recent changes, but her letter
    to me explaining the reasoning behind not allowing a child access to UK citizenship
    through their British dads was completely bonkers and out of touch. Not really a family oriented
    party themselves.

  4. tmgrio

    Why not move to the spouse’s country of origin?

  5. nemo

    because they may have the same rules

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