BIG DEBATE: Is £18,600 threshhold for a spouse's immigration visa fair?
PUBLISHED: 18:01 06 August 2014 | UPDATED: 16:44 11 August 2014
Campaigners are protesting in Downing Street later this month over the plight of 4,000 people likely to be denied spouse visas for their foreign-born partners. New rules dictate applicants must earn a minimum £18,600 a year to get a visa for their spouse — but they don't earn that much. It means families being split up or UK-born citizens forced into 'exile' abroad. On the other side of the coin, immigration could get out of control without the regulations, including many arriving on our shores without prospect of work or being able to support themselves and would become a burden on the public purse.
Dan Oxley, a Ukip candidate in May’s local Newham Council elections for East London’s Royal Docks, where the former teacher lives, sees the £18,600 threshhold as a drastic step to reduce immigration:
The government’s intention of restricting immigration might be welcomed as an indication that it is involved with the issues.
But it also shows that it thinks of immigration as a problem rather than an opportunity—an chance which, if handled properly, would enhance our economy and culture by welcoming talented people from abroad.
They seek to impose an income threshold of £18,600 on those seeking to sponsor a non-EU spouse.
"Government thinks of migration as problem rather than opportunity"
The government calculates that no major benefits or tax credits will be due, which would exclude 40 per cent of the working population.
This is a drastic step after the government’s reckless undertaking to reduce net immigration to under 100,000 a year; a difficult target with the current figure more than twice that.
Progress has been made with language schools and private colleges which are used as a route to immigration—but problems persist of students overstaying their visas after a course.
Migration on the basis of being self-employed is a difficult issue. It is a problem to assess this claim before immigrants arrive. Assessing after arrival creates “a huge administrative problem” for the government—which can deter us from parking in the wrong place or fishing without a licence, but is hopeless at deporting terrorists.
"My right as a British-born citizen is to be with whoever I wish, how ever much I earn"
The Tory policy on immigration is unfair. It offers free access to the population of Europe, while restricting it elsewhere.
Ukip’s immigration policy is that Britain’s long and honourable tradition of refuge to those fleeing persecution should continue.
A fairer immigration policy could be based on the Australian experience, where a points-based system for anyone wanting to live in the UK is judged on their usefulness.
This would be a huge advance on the present system that allows unfettered access to all EU citizens while requiring, for instance, that a brilliant entrepreneur from Venezuela jumps through hoops.
Jessica Benchrifa, 29, born in Plymouth, now living in east London and married to a Moroccan, is helping to organise a protest in Whitehall on August 23 against the new visa rule. Thousands of Brits, she says, face having their families split because they don’t meet the £18,600 income threshhold:
I went on holiday to Marrakech in 2012 and met Hicham, who I married in April 2013. Our son Rayan was born at Queen’s Hospital in Romford in October.
A new visa law put in place two years ago this month has put a price tag of £18,600 a year on having your partner live with you.
The government pledged to reduce net immigration by requiring a spouse to show they earn £18,600—self employment is discredited and often viewed as fraudulent.
Before July 2012 and the 39 years before, you could marry whoever you liked and live with them.
Many cannot meet this new threshold, which means they stand little chance of getting a visa for their partner.
Families are being split up, children separated from a parent—or the British-born spouse is forced into exile abroad.
I am lucky I meet the financial requirement. But if the rules change again, I could be without my husband and my son would be without his father—even though Hicham has a full-time job with a big coffee house brand and pays his taxes.
I am fighting for my right as a British citizen to be with whoever I wish, regardless of nationality, colour—or how much I earn.
Meanwhile 4,000 spouse visa applications are set to be refused on the basis that the UK spouse does not earn £18,600, with many more who are not applying because they know they stand no chance of getting their partner a visa.
These are British citizens, born here, denied a right to a family life. The government has taken that right away—unless they earn £18,600, or course!
Our protest on August 23 is to tell the public what is happening to British citizens and the children caught in the middle. We meet at 11am in Parliament Square, march to Downing Street, then up Whitehall to Leicester Square.
We must curb this misconception that foreigners are “a burden on society”, a prejudice which the Home Office sees as legal and justified.
The visa law is tearing families apart, forcing British citizens into exile because they cannot afford the income needed.