Some claim that new Immigration Rules are tearing non-EEA families apart. But is the UK right to stop what former Immigration Minister Damian Green called “chain migration” or are they just being unfair?
Migrant families are being ripped apart by the UK Government’s immigration policies, in particular the ruthless culling of net migration to less than 100,000 by 2015, the BBC reports.
With the UK Border Agency (UKBA) unable to restrict EU immigration (other than from Bulgaria and Romania), non-EU family migration and students have been targeted.
The UKBA has conducted a major overhaul of the Immigration Rules to make it far more difficult non-EU citizens to join their family members in the UK.
The restrictions extend to British settled persons who want their spouse, unmarried or same sex civil partner to come and live with them in Britain. You must now earn at least £18,600 per annum or have substantial savings.
The BBC has interviewed families affected by the new Rules on family immigration, introduced on 9 July 2012.
Russian widow, Nadya, 64, is visiting her daughter and son in law in the UK. She a retired doctor and has been helping to look after her baby granddaughters in Edinburgh.
“Everybody I care about is here, in the UK,” she says.
Her UK visitor visa expires in January and she will have to return to Russia with no guarantee of being granted a further UK visa to come back.
John and his wife Yana are both British citizens and want Nadya to live with them, but new Immigration Rules, introduced in July, no longer allow this.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or permanent residency will now only be granted to dependent relatives if they can demonstrate that they are dependant and need long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks like dressing and feeding.
Sponsors also need to prove that they cannot afford nursing care for their dependant relative in lower cost economies such as Russia, India or The Philippines, whilst at the same time showing they have sufficient funds to provide maintenance and accommodation for then in more expensive Britain!
Try getting out of that one!
“It’s a Catch 22 situation,” says John.
“It’s particularly cruel,” says Yana, “that my mother isn’t allowed to be with us unless she’s too ill to enjoy it.”
Home Secretary, Theresa May, said it has been “too easy for elderly dependent relatives to join their migrant children here and then potentially become a burden on the taxpayer.”
There is also the issue of ongoing medical costs for elderly relatives, which whatever declarations are signed inevitably gets picked up by the NHS, which will not turn a sick person away or check their passport before treating them. Private medical insurance is very expensive for the over 65’s, assuming you can even get it if you have a poor medical history.
“We as sponsors would sign a document guaranteeing that Nadya would not take benefits for at least five years. I know public money is short, but we are happy to pay for private healthcare and she has savings of her own.
“There’s no opportunity to prove this – the government has just pulled the shutters down.”
Yana and John do not want to relocate the family to Russia due to the “unstable political situation” there. Yana says she feels “betrayed” by her adopted country.
“We have to choose between abandoning my mother on her own in Russia or leaving this country if we all want to be together. This system does not take account of family ties.”
Another BBC interviewee, Dr Avinash Kanodia said he has had to make the same difficult choice.
He was recruited by the Department of Health from India in 2003 because of doctor shortages in the NHS, and works as a consultant radiologist in Perth. He, his wife and two children are all British citizens, which means he has renounced his Indian citizenship and has no Indian passport.
He said he checked before committing to move to the UK that his mother would be allowed to join them if her health deteriorated.
This is curious, since the Home Office would argue that when he came here on a work permit there would have been no guarantee of permanent residence or a route to British citizenship.
Like other migrant workers Dr Kanodia would have had to qualify for ILR after 4 years of continuous work and a further year for UK naturalisation.
Under new rules, to be fair implemented almost 10 years after he arrived in the UK, his mother can no longer be granted a visa because Dr Kanodia can easily afford to pay for nursing care in India.
He thinks the rules are wrong:
“The rules are morally wrong. I don’t want to leave my mother in the care of a stranger thousands of miles away. I was lured here with the promise of citizenship.
“But look how I am being treated as a citizen of this country. This is the worst thing the government could have done to me.”
He did not, however, say who promised him British Citizenship when he was “lured away” from India.
Apparently, Dr Kanodia is now considering whether to move his family back to India before his daughter starts secondary school in 2013.
Yeah right. That remains to be seen Doc, since if things were so good in India you would presumably not have chosen to leave your mother behind in the first place.
And if they did decide to relocate to India, he would have to reapply for his passport, which he gave up in favour of a British Passport, or get a work permit to work in India!
“I pay over £40,000 in income tax every year. I don’t see how driving people like me away will help the economy of this country.” He protested, despite earning over £100,000 per annum in his adopted country.
Home Office date shows that 2700 adult dependent relatives were granted visas in 2010. Of those, 1350 were aged 65 or over.
Cynthia Barker, of London immigration advisers, Bison Management, says the new rules are bound to slash these numbers, but can understand why the Government is taking this tough action.
“Whilst the new rules may seem harsh, it was always strange that it was easier to sponsor an elderly sick relative than it was a 19 year old child who had just finished high school and could contribute to the economy.”
She points out that even EU citizens are being asked to pay for private medical insurance.
“The Government are asking EU students from Bulgaria and Romania to take out comprehensive sickness insurance, yet elderly non-EU relatives were able to come in and freely use the NHS.
“Many Filipino workers are sending hundreds of pounds a month to pay for medical bills for sick family members in the Philippines, which no such thing as an NHS, so given the choice who wouldn’t get them over here?
“We all know that as we get older we are more likely to need medical treatment, which is why Spain is complaining about retired British people clogging up their hospitals, but in all honesty is free medical tourism fair to the British tax payer?”
The new Immigration Rules do not apply to European or EEA nationals living in the UK or who have recently arrived here.
Under the 2004 freedom of movement EU directive of 2004, EEA nationals living here can bring non-EU dependent relatives – including those living outside Europe – to settle in the UK without any restrictions and few conditions.
This includes those who may have just arrived from or have previously live in any EU country.
Even visa overstayers with EEA national relatives can exercise their family rights to stay in the UK under European rules.
Yana notes that EEA nationals get a better deal than Brits.
“We are friends with a Chinese woman who is married to an Irish man. Because he is an EU national they can sponsor members of her family to come from China and settle in the UK without any problem.
“They have more rights than us, although we are British. People don’t believe me when I tell them this, because it seems so unfair – but it’s true.”
Unfortunately for some, since the European expansion in 2004 the UK Immigration Rules have become harder and tougher on non-EU migrants, to make up for the fact that EEA immigration laws are so easy and flexible.
Cynthia Barker finally added what could be an alternative solution for some:
“What most people do not realise is that she, like other British people, can become EEA nationals and gain the same rights for their relatives as other Europeans.”
If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: