Giving evidence to the Home Affairs inquiry into immigration, Phoebe Griffith, from the Institute for Public Policy Research told members that the net migration target has “created a whole set of quite perverse incentives” to restrict certain forms of migration. There is surely no clearer example than the drastic changes to the immigration rules for non-EU spouses and partners introduced in July 2012.
In one fell swoop, instead of a light touch financial maintenance test which in effect required income levels of £5,500, an applicant wishing to join their spouse or partner here suddenly required to show their UK-settled sponsor earning at least £18,600 – plus £3,800 for a first child, and £2,400 for each extra child involved. And while the family could previously make reference to third party support from friends and family, or the potential earnings of the non-EU spouse, the new draconian rules excluded such factors from consideration.
Analysis suggests that 45% of the UK population couldn’t afford to sponsor the person they loved. In some parts of the country that rises to as high as 48% for couples and up to 66% for a couple with two children. The rules also disproportionately impact on the young, women and ethnic minorities.
I will continue to make the case for prioritising the right to a family life; putting the best interests of the child first; and not making citizens have to choose between their country and their family. At a minimum, that means ditching the new thresholds, and relaxing the rules again on the types of income that can be considered.