Under new immigration regulations announced on December 4, British citizens wishing to live in the UK with their foreign spouses must earn at least £38,700 a year, a leap of more than double from the previous threshold of £18,600.
The median average annual salary for UK citizens stands at around £34,500. That means 73 per cent of UK workers will not qualify to live with their married partners in Britain.
Unless, of course, they happen to have at least £62,500 in savings instead; the Government is consulting over whether to increase that amount also.
Hiking the earnings threshold seems a somewhat hypocritical Tory decision given senior Government figures – including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick – all married foreign spouses, though I guess they would have no trouble surpassing the new limits.
According to the Home Secretary James Cleverly, the new rules are designed to make a significant impact in the battle to cut immigration, legal immigration in this case. He claims some 300,000 will be prevented from arriving.
That is despite the fact that stopping the “small boats full of illegal immigrants” from crossing the English Channel has long been the Tories’ right-wing focused catchphrase, although progress towards this aim has been debatable to say the least.
According to UK broadcaster the BBC, an estimated 70,000 people came to the UK on family visas in the year ending June 2023. Even if all of them were stopped, it would hardly make a dent in the overall migration figures.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics’ provisional estimate of total immigration for year ending June 2023 is 1.2 million.
I am one of those Brits affected by the sudden visa threshold hike. I am 59 and I have been married to my 54-year-old Filipino wife for 11 years and we have been together, abroad until 2020, for almost 14 years.
The COVID pandemic put paid to our immediate hopes of starting the Spouse Visa application process upon my return. The Philippines was on the UK ‘Red List’ for months, meaning she could not be with me at all, even on a 6-month Visit Visa, for more than a year.
I fear that situation may now be permanent – as do thousands of other Brits in the same position. It is only relatively recently my wife and I have been able to prepare for what was already an arduous journey in securing a Spouse Visa.
The reality for me and many others in my situation is that I am probably either going to have to leave my elderly parents, sister, brother, niece and nephew in the UK and live abroad with the love of my life – or face the prospect of spending the rest of my days in the country of my birth alone.
In essence, Cleverly, Sunak and the majority of the Conservative Government have declared only the wealthiest Brits can marry a foreigner and reside together with them in the UK.
A ‘Love Tax’, if you will.
UPDATE: UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has resigned from his post, citing “strong disagreements” with the Government regarding its immigration policies.
Late on December 6, Jenrick posted on social media: “It is with great sadness that I have written to the Prime Minister to tender my resignation as Minister for Immigration.
“I cannot continue in my position when I have such strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration.”
When asked by MP Ashely Dalton if Jenrick had resigned, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “That has been confirmed.”