Proposed new minimum salary rules could block thousands of foreign partners from coming to the UK.
As many as 40,000 foreign wives, husbands and partners were granted visas to join their family in the UK last year, the Daily Mail reports. But new minimum salary proposals would mean that two thirds of foreign wives could be banned from the UK under plans to stop immigrants becoming ‘a burden on the state’.
Government immigration advisers say that the minimum salary required to bring a spouse to Britain should go up significantly, and may even be doubled.
The proposals could mean more than half of the UK’s population would not be able to bring in a foreign partner, as they might not earn enough to support them without relying on benefits.
And the threshold may be pushed even higher for those trying to bring children to the UK.
Professor David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, said a minimum salary of between £18,600 and £25,700 should be introduced for UK residents sponsoring a partner or dependant for UK citizenship.
This minimum, which applies equally to British citizens and immigrants, is currently set at around £13,700.
Some 40,000 foreign wives, husbands and partners were granted visas to join their family in the UK last year, but that number would be cut by up to 63 per cent under the proposals.
The Government asked the advisers to identify the salary a worker would need to earn to support a spouse or partner ‘without them becoming a burden on the state’, Professor Metcalf said.
The minimum salary could be even higher for those who wanted their children to join them from abroad, he added.
The lowest figure in the proposed range, £18,600, is the income level at which many benefits, including housing benefit and tax credits, are withdrawn, while the highest figure, £25,700, represents the typical income of a one-adult household.
It would mean that between a quarter and a half of full-time adult workers would be unable to bring their partners to the UK – but many others, including the unemployed and pensioners, could be prevented too.
Prof Metcalf said the proposals do not take into account Britons’ right to a family life under article 8.
‘We have to abide by the terms of reference that we are set up for, and that’s to answer the questions which the Government sets us, and not go off on a track of our own,’ he said.
‘It’s for others to then decide whether in some senses that question is a bit wrong, [if] it’s in this case too economic focused, or quite possibly we’ve not addressed it properly.’
He added that the current threshold was ‘a bit low’, and suggested there was ‘justification for raising the pay threshold’ to prevent a huge benefits bill for spouses from abroad.
The MAC’s figures show that of the 40,000 spouses and partners brought in from outside the EU, nearly a third were from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, while 6 per cent came from the U.S. and 5 per cent from Nepal.
|Table 3.2: Ten largest volume nationalities for family visas granted in the ‘spouse/partner’ categories, 2010|
|Country of nationality||Number of visas granted||Proportion of total (%)|
|Total for the ten most numerous nationalities||23,110||57|
|Note: This table excludes visas granted for refugee family reunion and children accompanying / joining. If refugee family reunion visas were included, the top 10 nationalities would include Somalia and Zimbabwe. UK Border Agency management information suggests that, in 2010, 65 per cent of family visas issued to Somalis (1,330 out of 2,030) were for refugee reunion; for Zimbabweans, it was 72 per cent (1,280 out of 1,790).Source: Home Office (2011c).|
It added that while 94 per cent of those based in the UK with a spouse abroad wanted their partner to join them, half earned less than £20,100 and three quarters earned less than £30,500.
The Institute for Public Policy Research warned that if the Government accepted the proposals and went ahead with the policy, ‘it is likely to be challenged in the courts’.
Matt Cavanagh, the think-tank’s associate director, said: ‘It isn’t unreasonable – particularly in the current economic climate – to ask whether, if someone is destitute or entirely dependent on benefits, they should be allowed to bring in a spouse or partner who is likely to end up in a similar position.
‘But introducing an income threshold at £25,700 – the level of the national median income – would effectively bar half the population from bringing a spouse or partner from abroad.
‘We’re not talking about people who are destitute or living on benefits, we are talking about people who are working and getting an average wage.’ Source: Daily Mail.
Following the recent Supreme Court judgment in the case of Quila and Bibi v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 45, the UK Border Agency announced new policy guidance for marriage visas, reinstating the minimum age to 18.
The Quila and Bibi case successfully challenged the requirement under paragraph 277 of the Immigration Rules for both foreign spouses and their sponsors in the UK to meet a minimum age of 21 before the foreign spouse could be granted a visa to enter or remain as a spouse or partner.
The new rules will do little to prevent applications under EEA rules. Sham marriage fixers are fully aware of these rules which is why non-EU immigrants are set up with EU partners.
If implemented the measures will hit hardest those lower paid migrant workers such as care workers, domestic workers, catering staff and even nurses in the care industry.
Lower paid workers often rely on the income of a partner to ‘make ends meet’ in the UK.
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