On 9th July 2012, new immigration rules were introduced in the UK which affect a large number of British people with overseas family (spouses, children, and dependant parents). The rules will affect more and more people as time goes on. The rules were introduced by the 'back door' - first secondary legislation, and then (when the courts ruled against this - the 'Alvi' decision), emergency legislation was pushed through the House of Lords (as the Commons was in recess) without a proper debate.
We have collated a pack of case studies. We are in the process of reaching out to a number of interested parties with this pack, which is our contribution to the debate. Anyone with any stories to contribute, please email us : firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com . We will share some of these stories here.
In brief, the rules, state the following :-
- Nobody earning less than £18,600 per annum can bring a partner into the UK.
- The £18,600 can be made up with savings, with the formula that £16,000 plus (2.5 * the difference between earnings and 18600) is required. In other words, somebody who may have been earning £40,000 but just lost their job, would require £62,500 in savings to bring their partner into the UK.
- The amount required increases rapidly where non-EEA children are being sponsored (usually stepchildren of the British partner; note that where the child is a UK or EEA citizen, the additional income requirement does not apply). An income of £22,400 is required for the first child, with an additional £2400 for each subsequent child.
- The amount required takes no account of different regions (i.e. an £18,600 salary in central London is very different from an £18,600 salary in Tyneside, in terms of cost of living and average incomes).
- The income is for the UK partner ONLY, so if for example the overseas
partner is the main earner, in many cases it makes it impossible for
expat Brits to return to the UK. An example may be a British woman in
Japan who is a housewife, with a middle-class husband. That family would
now face exile under the new rules. We are seeing many cases of British
citizens effectively consigned to exile overseas.
- Third party sponsorship is not allowed. Previously a parent of the UK citizen (for example) could be a sponsor - now they can't.
- Only certain kinds of savings are allowed (no stocks and shared, no house equity).
(These last few points mean that as well as being very harsh, the rules are not even sensible - as they don't take account of the way many people live in modern Britain, with a lot of self-employed people, people on contracts - even people who are retired and don't have to work, or where the non-EEA partner is the main earner. The partner could be earning ten times the income requirement, but if the UK partner falls a penny below it, they fail the test).
It is basically impossible for anyone, no matter how much they earn, to bring a parent into the UK. According to one of our sources, as of 5th January 2013 only one dependant relative visa has been granted worldwide since the rule changes in July.
Additionally, the language requirement for settlement will be made much more difficult from autumn of 2013 (jumping from CEFR A1 - entry level - to B1 - intermediate level). This is a more specialised area so will be discussed in a later post, but it is also likely to exclude a lot of people.
It is worth noting that this language level must be reached in addition to passing the much-criticised 'Life in the UK test'. If you want to know why the 'Life in the UK test' is much-criticised - see if you can pass it.
Time to ILR
Furthermore, the period before non-EU migrants on family visas can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK increases from 2 years to 5 years. This greatly increases insecurity for those on the family migration path, and will make it more difficult for partners and other family migrants to find employment as many employers will find it difficult to maintain the overhead to check migration status.
The Migrants Rights Network have summarised the rules here : http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2012/06/family-migration-new-rules-announced .
A very useful and concise research briefing on changes to the rules is here: http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06353 (via http://familyimmigrationalliance.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/a-positive-signal/ ).
There are some examples of the type of person who would fall foul of the new rules :-
- British women who cannot move overseas to be with their foreign partner because UK family law prevents them from taking their family overseas; yet these new immigration laws prevent their partner from joining them in the UK. These women face a choice of being with their children, or being with their partner.
- British citizens working overseas earning far higher than the equivalent of £18,600 are now faced with a choice of never returning to the UK or a minimum of 6-12 month family breakup.
Bear in mind that UKBA processing times are now through the roof - the poor performance of UKBA in implementing its own rules has been covered at length in the media and in Parliament. The performance of UKBA is a slightly separate issue from the rules themselve, but it adds to their onerous implmentation.
Additionally, some countries do not allow the British spouse to work legally (an example is Indonesia). Families in this situation are kept in a draconian trap by both nations - one partner cannot work overseas, and the new rules mean the family cannot return to the UK.
- British citizens who fall in love with people from countries with similarly regressive laws, and who are therefore prevented because of an arbitrary income requirement, from living in either of their home countries!
- British citizens whose partner or parents live in a country where homosexuality is punishable by death and therefore are faced with a life apart from their partner or the death penalty!! Why is it that while we are progressing to make gay marriage legal, we are finding other ways to penalise someone because of their sexual preference?
- British citizens who are higher rate tax payers and would qualify under these rules to bring in a non EU spouse and 20 of their non EU children, are prevented from bringing in an elderly parent living alone on the other side of the world! If the rules show that a certain amount of money is enough for over 20 people, why isn’t this amount enough for ONE parent?
- British parents, whose children are forced out of the UK, are left with no one to look after them. We know of an elderly British couple whose adult children (both British, both affected by these rules) who are now facing a life without having their children to help them in their old age. Is the state committed to caring for this couple to the same level as their children would? How dare the state break this family up and condemn this couple to a life reliant on social workers rather than having their children around?
- British citizens in love with people from countries which the Foreign Office advises against travel to e.g.Iraq. If it’s not safe for a British citizen to travel to, is it really safe for them to move their entire families to? Is this government prepared to be liable for the subsequent repercussions?
- British citizens, living outside London – who while not meeting this random income criterion, earn a sufficient amount to have an above average quality of life, do not qualify for benefits, yet are not allowed by this government to live with their loved ones. This highlights that a single income criterion overlooks different income and expenditure levels across the country.
- Some British soldiers earn as little as £14k. These young Brits are given the responsibility to defend our shores and our people, yet are not given basic rights. Their right to a family life is being threatened when every day they are defending our way of life.
- British students and ex-students who have fallen in love and wish to marry their non EU former classmates. In a world where we are increasingly seeing the benefits of multiculturalism, how can we let this government dictate who we can and cannot fall in love with?
- International students who do their British education proud by being employed in top UK firms and government departments as higher rate taxpayers – who have contributed heavily to make this country better and now after nearly 20 years of being British and having made their life here, are being pushed out of the country by virtue of being told that they cannot maintain their life in the UK and yet fulfil their duty to their parents.
Who Is Affected?
So what does this mean? Families are being broken up, couples are being torn apart, a generation of children are being brought up by single parents.
According to Oxford University's Migration Observatory (source: http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/press-releases/women-young-people-and-non-londoners-are-most-affected-changes-family-migration-polic ), these changes will mean that, of British taxpayers (and voters) in employment :
- 47% will not qualify to bring in a family member.
- 61% of women will not qualify to bring in a family member (showing the sexist nature of these rules).
- 51% of people in Wales will not qualify to bring in a family member.
- 48% of people in Scotland will not qualify to bring in a family member.
- 46% of English residents will not qualify to bring in a family member.
- 29% of Londoners will not qualify to bring in a family member.
According to research by another academic contact we have been in touch with, the way the rules are implemented means that the figures may be even higher. For example, we have heard cases of bad advice being given out by UKBA; of people being refused by overseas stations even when they MEET the rules.
It is shocking how badly thought through these new rules are and there are already cases of people falling foul of the rules, families and couples being broken up, children being forced to be without one parent....
According to the think tank, MIPEX, Britain has the most difficult to overcome spouse, partner, child and family immigration rules in Europe after Norway (source). But given that average income levels in Norway are far higher than in the UK (as of January 2013), and given the more equitable nature of Norwegian society, this suggests that Britain is easily the most difficult to enter country of immigration in Europe for spouses, partners, children and families.
I urge you to look at the following and judge for yourself. These stories show the diversity of people affected by the rules. SOMEONE you know will probably be affected :
“As British citizens we have fewer rights in Britain than our EU friends and their non-EU partners… ” (Migrants Rights Scotland)
'Sons and lovers'. (The Economist)
'Milton mum fights deportation' (This Is Staffordshire)
'Graduate forced out of UK for not earning enough' (Herald Scotland)
'Deport my heart' (Max Dunbar)
'An open letter to Theresa May' (Kraion Blog)
'How immigration laws are splitting families apart' (BBC)
'New immigration rules accused ot splitting up families' (Independent)
'Newlyweds spend first year on opposite sides of Atlantic' (Daily Record)
'Uncertain future for family' (Fenland Citizen)
'GMB: GMB calls for urgent review as changes to immigration laws cause confusion and harm families' (Politics Home / GMB)
'Cruelty and cowardice replace common sense' (Amol Rajan, The Independent)
'Why my husband's lack of English is keeping us apart' (BBC)
David Ward calls for rethink on earnings link' (Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
'Exile or family breakup' (Bringing up Brits)
'The rules of love' (British Future)
'Theresa May's immigration plan is a one-size-fits-none fix' (Brooke Magnanti, The Guardian)
'£18,600 wage minimum to bring spouse to UK' (Channel 4)
'FactCheck: Minister wrong on immigration' (Channel 4)
'Immigration rules will stop 30,000 relatives moving to UK' (Channel 4)
'New family rules vs. integration' (COMPAS Oxford Blog)
'The nasty party just got even nastier' (Crooked Timber)
'Is EU love really worth more than Asian love?' (Adrian Hilton, Daily Mail)
'Why Indians in UK worry over new family immigration rule' (Economic Times, India)
'Conservative Party member terms Britain's new immigration policy 'racist'' (Economic Times, India)
'UK government’s tightening of Immigration laws clear violation of basic human rights' (Outernationalist)
'Don’t make £18,600 annually? You can’t sponsor your non-EU spouse in UK' (Firstpost, India)
'A case of tough love' (Freemovement Blog)
'More new immigration rules with immediate effect' (Freemovement Blog)
'Poor people to be prevented from marrying' (Freemovement Blog)
'Stark choice under new immigration rules: exile or family breakup' (The Guardian)
'Out of sight, out of mind: the heartlessness of the Home Secretary' (Michael Allen, Huffington Post)
'Immigration clampdown announced – if you want to marry a foreigner and live in the UK together you must earn £18,600' (Immigration Matters)
'The UK: Rich immigrants only please' (Infernal Machine)
'Theresa May and punitive populism' (Institute of Race Relations)
'United by love, divided by Theresa May' (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants)
'Families torn apart by UK immigration laws' (Kings Court Chambers)
'Young and in love - but unable to settle' (Left Foot Forward)
'Why aren’t Liberal Democrats complaining loudly about draconian new family immigration rules?' (Lib Dem Voice)
'Government's new plans to limit immigration are more worrying than you thing' (Liberal Conspiracy)
'Love knows no borders: changes to immigration rules will separate families' (Migrant Forum)
'Women, young people and non-Londoners are most affected by changes to family migration policy' (Migration Observatory)
'Can't buy me love' (MIPEX)
'Keeping families apart: the impact of a new income threshold for family migration' (Migrant Rights Network)
'Migrants earning rule 'repugnant' ' (MSN)
'A breaking rule: partners under pressure' (Hsiao-Hung Pai, Open Democracy)
'The LGBT fallout of UK immigration' (Reflexive Action)
'Immigrants don't come here for the weather - they want to work' (Shazia Mirza, The Guardian)
'Half of population could be barred from bringing in a foreign partner under family visa reform' (Daily Telegraph)
'Chelmsford mum fights to get son's dad UK visa' (This Is Essex)
'Couple fight new immigration laws in bid to stay together' (This Is Somerset)
'Welsh dad barred from bringing Mexican wife and son to Wales by 'unfair' income rule' (Wales Online)
'UK to impose family curbs on immigrants' (Times of India)
Maybe more heartbreakingly, the YouTube video 'Skype Mummy' addresses the plight of one family broken up by these appalling rules :
We will post more information, more stories, and track the campaign as time goes by.
Join us! - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign the petition against the rules!
If you are affected, submit your story to the All-Party Parliamentary Group which is holding an inquiry into the impact of the rules right now.