By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter
Under new rules that came into force in July 2012 only British citizens who can prove they earn at least £18,600 a year can sponsor their non-European spouse’s visa, leaving families stranded thousands of miles apart.
An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration looked at more than 175 cases from families affected by the rules.
Forty-five claimed their inability to meet the income threshold had led to the separation of children, including British children, from a non-EU parent, the group said.
Baroness Hamwee, chairwoman of the inquiry and Liberal Democrat home affairs lead in the House of Lords, said the parliamentary group had been “struck by the evidence showing just how many British people have been kept apart from partners, children and elderly relatives”.
The Home office said the rules were designed to ease the burden of migration on the taxpayer, but there is mounting evidence it is tearing families apart. One husband we contacted has never even met his daughter.
Wanye Hampson, 39 from Haydock married Gerlie, 39 in 2007 in the Philippines.
“We had a son (now five) together but he was getting very ill in the Philippines. I decided to take him back to the UK to see if he was better suited to that environment. Gerlie was pregnant at the time and I planned to bring her over later in the year.
“But when I applied for my family to join me in the UK I was told I didn’t meet the financial criteria. I wasn’t able to work full-time as I was looking after my son, so I can’t make anywhere near the threshold and I don’t have the savings.”
For partners with children the threshold rises to £22,400 for families with one child, and an additional £2,400 for each further child, out of reach of many hard-working families.
“It’s a catch 22 situation. It means I have only ever seen my daughter via Skype. It’s heart-breaking. She is three years old now and she has never even hugged her dad. Every penny I have I need to put into savings in the vain hope I have enough money to satisfy the immigration system.”
If couple’s have over £16,000 in savings for over six months then they can use this amount to fill the shortfall in salaried earnings.
“If I was reunited with my wife, I could work full-time. I am a computer engineer and should able to secure a decent salary, even though most people in my local area don’t earn salaries anywhere near that level. You don’t get London salaries in Haydock.”
But even married couples with well-paid jobs, above the threshold are having a very difficult time getting their loved ones into the country
Sophia Deery, 23 from London married her long term partner Anton, 25 in April 2013 in Kiev.
“I had been in my position with the local council since January 2013 and just after our wedding in April, we did not have the six month’s payslips needed to meet the financial requirements for that Visa.
“Now I have the six months’ payslips equating to well over £18,600 a year, my local authority job actually pays £25,500 per annum, but the problem is that my current job is a temporary contract.
“The time taken to process a visa application is three months but can often take even longer. As my contract expires 31st August 2013, our lawyers advised that we could be declined regardless of the fact we meet the requirements.”
“I have luckily managed to find a job with a local school, in the same local authority that starts 2nd September. This means I will have had continuous employment with the same employer with no gap in my earnings. However, the new job doesn’t earn enough. It pays £18,051 a year, less than £600 under what is required.
“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I understand the government wants to stop people who might become a burden to society coming in to the UK, but Anton isn’t one of them.
“He is a qualified lawyer in Ukraine, has two postgraduate degrees, speaks three languages fluently, including English, and has an entrepreneurial spirit – having started two of his own Internet businesses. I know that if given the chance then he could really help drive this country forward. He would also be a loving husband and an outstanding father. If only he could be allowed the chance.
“I don’t necessarily object to a financial requirement being in place for Marriage Visa applicants, but a criterion that the majority of British citizens can’t meet is an injustice.”
The parliamentary group said that wider evidence suggested that 47% of the UK working population last year would have failed to meet the income level to sponsor a non-European Economic Area partner.
However, a Home Office spokesman responded to say the rules had been designed to make sure those coming to the UK to join their spouse or partner would not become a burden on the taxpayer and would be well enough supported to integrate effectively.
“High-value migrants would not be refused because their British spouse or partner was not employed,” he said.
“They can meet the income threshold by having cash savings of £62,500 or through their own private income, for example from investments. We have also introduced greater flexibility for those holding investments to liquidate them into cash in order to meet the rules.”
It appears that the policy is an institutionalised prejudice against a vast majority of people who are statistically less likely to receive a high income. Women – who still continue to earn less money than men, young people – vast majority are struggling to find employment in the current climate, and those who work in care professions such as nurses, teachers, childcare and support workers would all struggle under the legislation.
It appears the UK government prefers high net worth individuals rather than helping to secure a family unit, which can only polarise society further.