“Income-related immigration tests for families is abhorrent; to say only the very wealthy can live with family is outrageous”
Amanda is a British citizen. She grew up in Dumfries & Galloway. After finishing university and working for a year to save up, she headed to New Zealand on a working holiday, initially just for one year. However when she met and fell in love with Tony, a Kiwi, her stay in New Zealand became more permanent.
They built a fabulous life in New Zealand, buying a house together, then after four years together, they came to Scotland to get married so the day could be shared with Amanda’s family and friends.
They both had good jobs. Tony is a carpenter who has worked for sixteen years for the same company. Amanda is a marketing professional, having progressed to Director level – a position she has been in for the last six of the twelve years at her employer.
They both worked hard, saving money to buy two investment properties which afforded them a rental income, while maintaining a good quality of life.
However during the fourteen years in New Zealand, Amanda missed her family dreadfully and this always prevented her from feeling fully settled. She is extremely close to them and though has been lucky enough to afford trips home twice a year, and of course making the most of Skype etc. there is simply no substitute for being a part of the day-to-day life of the people you love. She is missing being part of her four nephews lives; seeing them growing up, having a real relationship with them.
So Tony and Amanda decided to take a career break, spend a year travelling Latin America and then start a new life in the UK back in the bosom of Amanda’s family. They never thought though that there would be such ridiculously restrictive new laws in place.
In blissful ignorance, the couple quit their jobs and headed off on their adventure. For the last six months they have been hiking and exploring the southern part of South America, finally after all those years of work being able to have so much time together to just enjoy life.
Three months into the trip, Amanda started looking into the rules for obtaining residency for Tony – and was shocked. Amanda is appalled that the rules are such that a British citizen – simply by virtue of being a low-income earner is not afforded the same family rights as a ‘richer’ British citizen.
On initial reading of the rules, despite her sadness at the clear class discrimination, she thought the rules didn’t restrict her ability to return home with her husband. After all, they’d been together for fourteen years, of which ten is as a married couple. They both have good job offers in UK which satisfy the financial threshold. They have savings and rental properties bringing in income each month. There is no chance this couple will be living on benefits, especially with Amanda’s sister offering them accommodation until they have a chance to buy a place of their own.
The couple has surmised that:
· Their trip of a lifetime prevents them from living in the UK as they have not been working.
· Their savings aren't enough to be counted as the first £16000 is excluded altogether and it must be £62,500 in cash.
· Rental income on their investment properties is excluded as - for tax efficient purposes – these are owned by a limited company, even though Amanda and Tony are the full owners of this company.
· If they were to sell their property to show £62,500 in cash, they’d still have to spend six months apart and then, as Amanda says, ”God knows how many more months to process the application”.
Amanda is aware that she is lucky. She is on a yearlong holiday, has a job offer back home, and has assets. However despite this, they are left with a choice of living apart for likely a year on opposite sides of the world or never returning to the UK and her family.
Amanda is not just angry. She is livid with the UK government. An income-related immigration test for families is abhorrent anyway but to have one that is not just about stopping people claiming benefits but is actually saying only the very wealthy can marry foreigners is outrageous.
She choked up when she read an example in the UKBA guidance notes that even a person with £1m in stocks and shares must liquidate his assets to show cash of £62,500 required!
Their much looked forward to trip now has a grey cloud following them, while Amanda and Tony wonder if they will ever be able to realise the dream of finally allowing Amanda the chance to live near her family...to have UK welcome Tony the way New Zealand did Amanda.
Update: Amanda & Tony exercised free movement rights, living and working in Netherlands for about a year. They are now happily back in Scotland reunited with their family and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first baby.