The UK is proposing a rule change which would mean half of all workers wouldn’t be able to bring a foreign-born spouse to live with them in Britain.
An advisory committee is proposing the introduction of a minimum gross (i.e. before tax) income threshold of at least £18,600 ($29,388) and perhaps as much as £25,700 ($40,606), which would be required to bring your partner to live with you in the UK.
The committee estimates that 45% of current applicants would not meet the lower income threshold and 64% of current applicants would not meet the higher threshold. Around 50,000 family visas are granted to immediate relatives of British residents every year.
Prime Minister David Cameron has already expressed support for the idea, saying it is aimed at reducing “a significant burden on the welfare system and the taxpayer.” But the committee which dreamt it up was tasked with finding ways of meeting the British government’s target reduction plan for immigration.
Partly due to the pound losing its value, emigration has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. And according to Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, once you cut out British people coming home, migrants from the EU, student visas and work visas (which are also being cut), you are left with very few immigrants to stop. Hence the focus on people entering via marriage or civil partnership as a means to meeting the pledge to ‘cut immigration.’
The proposal would lead to a significant bias against applicants from Scotland and the north of England, where average incomes are lower. There would therefore be a bias in favor of migration to the London area. It would also make it harder for women to bring in their partners, as they earn less than men.
The figures cited also assume that there are no children or dependents in the household, and the committee proposes a multiplier formula to address this issue, meaning that much higher income thresholds might be introduced for those with children, possibly over £40,000 ($63,000).
There is no evidence that large numbers of migrants entering by the family route are living on welfare, or that current policy is failing to deal adequately with the problem of forced marriages.
Matt Cavanagh, the associate director of the Institute of Public Policy Research, told The Guardian: