Published On: Fri, Nov 20th, 2015

UK Immigration Laws Are Keeping Families Apart

Changes to UK immigration law have created stressful situations for many families. The new rules came into effect in 2012. They stipulate that a British national must earn at least £18,600 a year to bring a dependent relative into the country. This means that families are often unable to return to the UK after spending time away. Effectively, this means that many Brits cannot return to their home country. If they do, their only choice is to leave their spouse or another family member behind. An estimated 33,000 people in the UK have been affected by this regulation.

Family multiplicity

The rules are intended to stop dependent spouses from moving to the UK and using the welfare state to live. However, there have been protests over the regulations and continue to be every year. There seems to be very little public support for the rule, which makes sense to few. The minimum earnings amount means that nearly half of Britons can’t afford to marry a non-European foreigner. At least, they can’t do so and live together in their home country. It’s not only couples that the laws are separating, either. Some parents are unable to see their adult children. Some couples have chosen to live elsewhere with their spouses, rather than in the UK alone.

If couples have non-British children together, the amount they must earn is even higher. It rises to £22,400 for one child, and then an additional £2,400 for each one after that. The UK children’s commissioner recently said that these rules were creating “Skype families”. Parents and children are kept apart and having to communicate virtually. However, there are no official numbers estimating how many children have been affected.

Some people have taken to using a loophole. It allows them to enter by spending time elsewhere in the European Economic Area. A couple must move to another European country within the EEA. They can then be considered under EU law when they return to the UK. The British person needs to work there for three months. This shows that they’re exercising their right to free movement within the EU. It’s known as the Surinder Singh route, named after a landmark case. This loophole also means that it’s easier for an EU citizen to bring their non-EEA spouse to the UK.

However, there has been pushback against the law. Immigration law firms have been challenging the rulings, although the battle may soon be over. The high court ruled that the £18,600 amount was too high in 2013, but it was overturned in a court of appeal. The next stage is for it to reach the supreme court, which is expected to happen in 2016. Many argue that the rules hurt the economy, rather than help it. The Migrants’ Rights Network, a campaign group, suggest that families who are apart are more likely to need assistance.

The Home Office insists that these regulations are fair and just, but many disagree. Whatever the supreme court outcome, there will still be many families who have had to spend time apart.