The UK government recently announced strict new visa rules that will make it extremely difficult for many multinational families to live together in Britain. The changes have sparked outrage among affected families and advocates who argue they are needlessly cruel and detrimental to children’s wellbeing.
Overview of the New UK Family Visa Rules
Under the new rules set to take effect in Spring 2024, the minimum income threshold for British citizens or residents to sponsor a foreign-born spouse or partner to live with them in the UK will rise from £18,600 to £38,700 per year. They will also need additional funds for any children they hope to bring over or have after arriving in Britain:
- £3,800 for the first child
- £2,400 for each subsequent child
This means a British citizen with a non-British partner and two children will now need to show they earn at least £47,500 per year to qualify for a family visa. The rules will not apply to certain shortage occupation jobs like healthcare. But workers in those exempt fields will still be barred from bringing over any dependents.
Why Are the Rules So Strict Compared to Other Countries?
The UK already had some of the strictest family immigration policies in the developed world before these latest changes. An assessment in 2020 found that out of 56 countries analyzed, only Denmark had more restrictive measures for family migration than Britain.Some examples of how the UK policies compare:
- The income threshold for sponsoring a partner is over five times higher than the US requirement
- Canada and Australia do not mandate any set income level for family visas
- Most European countries either have no financial requirements or set them at under £10,000
Campaign to Overturn the Rules
The announcement of the drastic new income requirements has sparked immediate backlash. A legal challenge is already being mounted by organizations like Amnesty International UK and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.They argue the “minimum income visa rules” are detrimental to children’s welfare and family life, disproportionately harming marginalized groups, and serve no legitimate government purpose. In the past, British courts have pushed back against similar home office rules that were found to violate human rights protections. Campaigners hope to see the income threshold struck down or reduced to a more reasonable level through their upcoming lawsuit.
Estimated 15,000 “Skype Families” Unable to Reunite
Heartbreaking stories have already emerged of couples and parents separated from their loved ones due to the stringent financial requirements under the current visa system.It’s estimated there are already over 15,000 British children growing up in “Skype families” where one parent is overseas because they cannot meet the income rules to join their partner in the UK. That number will surely skyrocket if the new regulations take effect.
Suggestions for Alternatives to High Income Threshold
Rather than setting an arbitrary, blanket earnings figure that excludes lower-income families, advocates propose the government consider more holistic approaches to evaluating visa applicants.Potential alternative assessments could review:
- Whether the couple has adequate savings or assets to support themselves even if earning under £38,700
- If they have family members in Britain willing to assist with housing/childcare
- Overall financial circumstances rather than just gross income
- Ties to community, education/skills, work history, etc.
A more nuanced process would maximize family unity while still screening out applicants at high risk of relying on public funds.
Imposing a £38,700 minimum income barrier to reunite separated spouses and children is an extreme measure that will destroy thousands more families. The emotional trauma inflicted is immense while the alleged benefits to Britain are negligible at best.Concerned citizens must pressure the government to withdraw these draconian new visa rules that represent an unprecedented clampdown on the basic human right to family life.
Britons should not be prevented from having their loved ones reside with them based solely on their pay slips.Hope remains that either public outcry or legal action can overturn the regulations before the damage is done. But the clock is ticking as the implementation date of Spring 2024 draws near. Anyone affected is urged to immediately consult an immigration lawyer to understand their options before it is too late.