LOWERING THE MINIMUM INCOME THRESHOLD IS NOT ENOUGH

I’ve been hearing rumours lately from multiple sources that the government is expected to lower the minimum income threshold required for a British citizen to sponsor their non-EEA spouse to join them in the United Kingdom. If you’re not already aware of the new requirements, introduced in July 2012, and the effects they are having on British citizens, please check out the Brit Cits blog here. The current income threshold stands at £18,600 and rises for couples with dependent children, which is a figure well above national minimum wage and means that in 2012, 47% of the British working population would not have been able to reside with their spouse in the U.K if that spouse was a national from a country outside the EEA. In other words, the government have prevented 47% of the British working population from marrying a ‘foreigner’ if they wish to stay in the U.K.

Rumour has it that the government are expected to lower this minimum income threshold next year to bring it in line with the national minimum wage. While it must be remembered that this is nothing but a mere rumour, if it proves to be true then it would relieve many British citizens of the forced separation they have been enduring and reunite them with their loved ones. This is obviously great news and I have challenged the immigration minister Mark Harper myself on the lunacy of setting a threshold above minimum wage. Yet simply aligning the threshold with the minimum wage is not enough.

After hearing story after story of how the Home Office callously deals with those who are trying to traverse the complex web-and-waiting game that is our immigration system, I have turned into somewhat of a cynic. So, if you’re anything like me, you’ll know that even if the government do decide to lower this minimum income threshold, they will find a plethora of other ways to refuse visa applications and separate families. Lowering the threshold would merely be their carrot-on-a-stick approach to subdue the opposition to their unjust immigration policies.

Maybe that is too cynical, but it must be remembered that David Cameron has pledged to reduce net migration to the tens-of-thousands by 2015. The government has set itself a target. If it doesn’t meet its own targets, nevermind how arbitrary and impossible they are to meet, it looks bad. Especially if these targets relate to the sensitive subject of immigration. At the end of the day, the government are pursuing an ideology. They’re not in the business of dealing with actual people on a case-by-case basis, they’re in the business of money, figures and statistics. If you’re a divided family, it’s not a business where you fit in comfortably. The BBC home affairs correspondent has explained it best here:

“…if the government is going to hit its target, it may need to find more tools to increase departures while maintaining pressure on arrivals.”

While it might not be stated officially, it is evident that those ‘tools to increase departures’ include encouraging British citizens themselves to leave the country while ‘maintaining pressure on arrivals’ involves creating a hostile environment, full of impossible hoops for immigrants to jump through.

Furthermore, lowering the minimum income threshold is just a gesture because it doesn’t help those who are currently living abroad with their spouse, not earning the required amount and wish to return to make a life in the U.K. It still means they have to return alone, find a job and work and wait for 6 months before they can apply for their spouse to join them. This process itself could take many months so couples in this situation may face up to a year apart. This is a massive, unacceptable disruption to people’s lives and the problem is further exacerbated if there are children involved. Who do they stay with? What if both parents are working in separate countries?

For British citizens like myself, who have no income because they are currently studying (or maybe they’re retired, have recently been made redundant, etc.) the same problem exists. I still have to wait until I graduate, then work for a further 6 months until I can apply for my husband to join me. That’s nearly a year of my marital life I am never getting back, because the British government do not accept third-party support. They dismiss substantial amounts of savings and income attained through self-employment. They do not even consider the incoming non-EEA citizen’s current or potential earnings, nor their financial situation. They charge extortionate application fees and then make people play a lengthy waiting game, all to deter British citizens from even trying.

If they do lower the minimum income threshold, I will congratulate every single person who is now free to apply without worrying about their finances; but I won’t be celebrating. I won’t celebrate until the British government practice what they preach and support strong, stable relationships regardless of nationality and treat people as people and not just a statistic they can manipulate in order to meet their targets.

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11 thoughts on “LOWERING THE MINIMUM INCOME THRESHOLD IS NOT ENOUGH

  1. Good article, I agree. Theresa May is still the same vile racist with the same fascist ideology. The problem is much deeper than the income requirement, the real problem is that the government simply don’t want us to live with our families. I anticipate what new rules May will introduce to replace the income requirement, to prevent the ‘influx’ of British people wanting to live with their families.

  2. Obviously the first commentator is unaware of what facism and racism are. For example how can it be racist if the same policies are applied to everyone? I do not think the income requirement is particually unreasonable it is simply the level of income you have to receive to be ineligable for state support. The clear argument is why should British taxpayers subsidise people bringing foreign spouses into the country?

    • No, it is the level at which a couple cease to receive income related benefits, thus to expect a single person to earn it and take no account of the spouse’s finances whatsoever is ridiculous. The argument is not clear – no one is asking the British taxpayer to subsidise their marriage and this idea is particularly insulting when the British partner is a taxpayer themselves. The point is, the government are playing a numbers game at the expense of their own citizens and claiming that it is to stop foreign spouses becoming a burden on the taxpayer is just their nonsense justification. Foreign spouses clearly have “no recourse to public funds” stamped in their visas, so how could they be funded by the taxpayer?

      • I think you would find they would still be eligible for tax credits and NHS healthcare. I agree when one looks at individual cases it can come across as harsh but I think you would find that to be the case with most laws. Before this law was introduced it was still necessary to prove the British citizen had the ability to support their foreign spouse. In my mind all the new law did was set a definitive income level. As for the 47/ , I am sceptical it is that high. Just out of interest who is funding your study. No student loan I supose?

      • The previous rules allowed third-party support and considered all savings, not only those above £16,000. They also considered the partner’s savings and income. There was no problem with the previous rules, these new ones have only been introduced to help the government meet its arbitrary net migration targets. If they’re working and paying into a system then what’s the issue? I’ve referenced the 47% figure from a BBC article, but it is cited in numerous other studies and I don’t see why there is any need to be sceptical about it. Yes, of course I receive a student LOAN. My husband and I have more than enough money to support one another, he has skills needed in the U.K and I find it extremely patronising to suggest that because I have a foreign husband and am protesting these rules, you seem to assume that we would need to access benefits.

  3. If your husband has skills that are so sought after in the UK then why can he not go down the skilled migrant route. Again all the financial requirements are based upon not having access to benefits which most of the UK population would deem reasonable

    • We have been trying. You don’t get it, preventing access to benefits is simply not the reason the financial requirement has been introduced. It is merely the justification used to support it. It was introduced to help the government bring numbers down before the next election at whatever cost.

      • I am sceptical as to that argument. Family migration simply does not have a large effect on the net migration figures. As I have said previously the majority of the public, who the government are supposed to serve agree with the policy. The argument that the tax payer should not have to support foreign spouses clearly seems reasonable. Also just to cut off your next point the argument the spouse does not receive the benefits is simply not true. If there partner does they also benefit.

      • So you agree that by marrying a foreigner you should forfeit being able to claim benefits should you find yourself in need? If you lost your job, for example, under these new rules and the checks they’ve introduced, you would also lose your spouse. Is that fair? For students, retired people and people working full-time yet earning below the required amount, it is absolutely impossible to plan a future or work on any kind of stability. Family migration may not have as bigger effect overall as other immigration routes, but like international students, it’s a soft target. The majority of the public do not even know about let alone agree with these rules. There is growing opposition to them, especially when long-term British taxpayers have to see their sons and daughters effectively forced into exile because they are unable to offer them support to meet the new requirement. No one should have to choose between their country and their partner and no child should have to grow up without one of their parents. Let me ask you, if the focus is really on preventing access to benefits, then why not reform the benefits system? That would be easy enough. The more you look in to the impact these new rules have had, the reasons for refusals and their subsequent overturning in the courts, the more it becomes apparent that the bottom line is the government simply do not want non-EEA spouses of British citizens in the country. If these new rules can encourage the British citizen to leave too, then that’s an added bonus which helps the figures. Be as ‘sceptical’ as you like.

  4. Well you would not lose your spouse if they worked. Yes I do agree that foreign nationals should not have access to benefits even indirectly through their spouse. As for having children, perhaps people should exercise control and not have a baby while there are imigration issues over their relationship. I would also disagree over the level of public awareness. There are constantly stories in the news, such as the Bbc article you highlighted and yet there is no public outcry. Do you think that is because potentially the public supports the policy, and no I do not view 10-20 people protesting as public support. The majority of people may feel sympathy towards individuals however the prevailing public opinion is towards limiting imigration and benefits.

    • Again, I ask you if that is truly the reason, then why haven’t the changes been implemented within the benefits system and NOT the immigration system, hmm? You would lose your spouse if they did not earn over �18,600. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the public support the policy and furthermore many MPs don’t even support it and are working to help those in their constituencies who are affected. While the courts agreed on the principle, they have said that the threshold is disproportionate to the government’s aim. The government should not be dictating when people start a family and many children who are affected are children who were born before these rules were implemented. Furthermore, if all the talk is about money – the number of appeals the government are losing and the number people claiming because they are effectively raising their children as a single parent are surely negating any ‘potential’ costs from paying out benefits? We’ll have to agree to disagree. I do not believe that British citizens should negate their right to welfare, if they need it, just because they married a foreigner. I also do not believe that people should be smeared as potential benefit claimants either, especially when the government deliberately ignore sources of income that prove they wouldn’t be.

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