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Over half of British women would be blocked from bringing non-EEA spouse/ partner to UK under Immigration Rules

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Posted on January 27th 2016

British families are currently being ripped apart under the guise of ‘controlling immigration’. The Government radically changed the Family Migration Rules in July 2012, creating a new and inflexible minimum income requirement of £18,600 for British nationals and permanently settled residents (those with indefinite leave to remain) wishing to sponsor their non-EU spouses/partner. The threshold is higher for those who are sponsoring children. The rules are made more onerous by the fact that only the income of the British/settled sponsor is taken into account. The non-EEA partner’s income does not count towards the threshold, even if they are working abroad.

Who is able to meet the Minimum Income Requirement?

These Rules negatively impact upon ordinary British citizens and settled persons whose family members are torn apart from their loved ones. According to the Migration Observatory's report The Minimum Income Requirement for non-EEA Family Members, released today, in 2015, 41% of employed British citizens earned less than the minimum income threshold and would therefore not be eligible to sponsor a non-EU spouse/ partner under the Rules. 

Additionally, these Rules disproportionately affect women, 55% of whom earn less than £18,600, compared to 27% of men. These Rules also put young people at a disadvantage. 53% of 20-29 year olds would not meet the minimum income requirement as opposed to 36% of people aged 46-60 years old. Finally, those living outside of London are at a disadvantage with, on average, 43% earning less than the income threshold, compared to 27% of Londoners. 

Challenging the Rules:

After the introduction of the Rules in 2012, the High Court ruled in 2013 that the full package of requirements, including the income threshold level and the disregard of spouses’ future income or credible support from third parties, was disproportionate and unlawful.

The High Court identified ‘less intrusive’ policy options such as reducing the minimum income requirement to around £13,500 which would bring it in line with a full-time minimum wage job. The judgment additionally proposed allowing savings of less than £16,000 to supplement the income, and to allow spousal income or third-party support to count towards the threshold. However, this decision was overturned in July 2014 by the Court of Appeal. The case is due to be heard by the Supreme Court in February 2016.

The Impact of the Rules on Children

Not only are these Rules harsh and unnecessary but they will have long-term impacts upon the families and children involved. Last year the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Middlesex University conducted research on behalf of the Children’s Commissioner for England. The subsequent report highlighted the severe detriment that the Rules has caused, and continue to cause, to children and families. The report found that:

  • It is estimated that at least 15,000 children have been affected by changes to the financial requirements since the implementation of the immigration rules in 2012.
  • Children, most of whom are British citizens, are suffering distress and anxiety as a result of separation from a parent. This is compounded by the overall stress, anxiety and practical difficulties faced by the family unit.
  • Problems reported by parents included: separation anxiety; anger directed towards the remaining and absent parent; disobedience; tantrums; aggression in adolescents; disrupted sleeping and eating patterns; bed wetting; social isolation; withdrawal from absent parent; guilt and blame for parent’s absence.
  • Many parents are suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of the separation and the pressure of meeting the financial threshold. This also directly impacts their children.
  • The income level would not be met by nearly half of the adult population and many families with children may never be able to meet them. The threshold is too high and is discriminatory. British citizens who have lived and worked abroad and formed long-term relationships abroad are particularly penalised and find it very difficult to return to the UK.

It is hard enough growing up separated from a partner or parent, but when it is British law that results in them being taken them away from you, because you are not deemed wealthy enough to live as a family in your own country, the injustice is incomprehensible. And for every couple that survives this enforced separation, there are many more that do not endure the unjust reality.

JCWI comment on the latest report from the Migration Observatory on the Minimum Income Requirement for non-EEA Family Members:

 
Saira Grant, Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants:
 

“We welcome the Migration Observatory’s Report. The public are largely unaware that 41% of British citizens would be unable to bring their foreign spouse into the country. The impact is far worse on women, the young and those outside London. The minimum income threshold is effectively saying to all those people you are too poor to fall in love with a non-EU person and still remain in Britain. You have to choose between remaining with your partner or being exiled from your country.

We are also gravely concerned that an estimated 15,000 children in the UK are currently growing up without one parent as a direct result of these financial requirements. Children are being forced to grow up in broken homes’ with serious consequences for their emotional and mental health. The impact on children seems to be an unintended consequence of these ules but one that cannot and must not be ignored.  If the income of the foreign partner was taken into account in the financial calculation, this would greatly help many families who are currently torn apart to meet the rules and be together.”

The Migration Observatory's full report is available here

If you are affected by the income threshold of the Family Migration Rules, please get in touch with us: policy@jcwi.org.uk

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