“For all who believe in the vital significance of families in the cause of social stability and who also recognise that we live in a totally interdependent global society, it is essential to keep family wellbeing at the centre of our priorities.”
In a globalised world, you might expect to see a rise in the number of cross border couples. But one person (backed by a whole Government) stands to stop international love for many ordinary people. Indeed Theresa May, the Home Secretary wants to make it harder for British citizens and those settled in the UK to bring their spouses, civil partners and indeed other family members to the UK.
Why should it be harder for UK citizens to have their overseas spouses join them in the UK? Harder than for EU citizens, or citizens in many other countries seeking to be reunited with their spouses?
Currently if you're British or settled in the UK, and you want your non- EEA spouse/civil partner to join you, you have to show that you meet various requirements. You must for example prove you have somewhere suitable to live, and that you're able to look after them and any other dependants without getting extra help from the state. The amount needed to look after your spouse/family is linked to the welfare state benefit amounts - spouses and partners however cannot actually access any benefits or public housing until they are legally settled.
There are a number of other requirements too including a requirement to pass an English language test, and couples need to raise enough money to pay for hefty visa application fees.
All that’s not enough for Theresa May. In her pursuit of lower net migration figures, she wants to make family reunification entitlements a privilege for only the wealthy. Here’s what Theresa May wants:
- Only those earning more than £18,600 to be able to bring their spouses to share their lives in the UK. This figure would rise significantly in cases where visa applications are also made for children. This would mean for example that in order to secure visas for a spouse and two children you could need an income of up to £24,800.
- An extension in the probationary period from two to five years - this will mean migrant spouses may end up trapped in abusive marriages for extended periods.
- A requirement to make couples prove a greater attachment to the UK than they have to any other country.
- To make the English language test more difficult.
Any income based assessment of this kind automatically discriminates against women, retired people, disabled people, the young and many minority ethnic people. It is well known that pension levels and wages for these people are proven to be lower than average in the UK.
Even by Theresa May’s own reckoning, these measures are not very effective as spousal immigration only makes up about a fifth of non-EU immigration. Cutting it could therefore only ever make a tiny contribution to the reductions she is trying to make.
The Home Secretary is intent on turning the Universal Declaration on Human Rights on its head. That Declaration states:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
In Theresa's world the law, far from providing protection from such interference, the law itself provides the interference.
We've been covering the issues concerned for sometime on our blog, check out the details: Letter to the Times Why pushing up maintenance requirements would be a bad idea Worrying times ahead for family members
We’ve also produced a dossier of case-studies which demonstrates how people will be adversely affected by these new Rule changes.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The Government has not yet introduced Rules reflecting the above, but it's likely to. We’d usually ask you to write to your MP at this point. A handful of you would, and a smattering of MPs would receive a letter, a couple may get two, they’d reply and nothing else would happen. So we’d like you instead, to contact Chris Bryant, Labour’s shadow immigration minister. We want him to oppose these policy proposals and any corresponding Rule changes. We want him to stand up and say publicly that immigration for the rich only is not on. He is in a position to give these Rule changes some serious opposition. Go on, drop him a line, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’d love to hear from you.