Picture the scene. You are British, from birth. You meet and marry somebody from another country. You want to live with your wife/husband/child in your home country. Only problem is, they’re not from Europe..
1. They need to get a visa
But we are married.. Ok, fair enough. Can’t just have people coming and going as they please I suppose!
Unfairness rating: 2/10
2. They need to pass an English test
To be able to apply for the visa, they need to pass an English test. A very overpriced English test, which is sometimes only available to take every few months.
Well, it’s good that people coming to the UK can speak English I suppose. But even if they don’t know it now, they will pick it up when they arrive won’t they? Seems like a delay tactic to me…
Unfairness rating: 3/10
3. You need to be earning more than 40% of working UK citizens
The other prerequisite to applying, is the British partner in the relationship has to produce 6 months of payslips and a contract proving an income of over £18,600 (more if they have children). It becomes more complex and demanding if your contract is anything except full-time permanent (sorry temporary/part-time/fixed contract workers). The current or potential salary of the foreign partner is not taken into consideration.
Whoa whoa whoa hold up.. So now you’re saying I can’t even apply for the right to live with my wife/husband in MY home country, unless I earn above some arbitrary sum of money? That’s financial discrimination, no two ways about it. What’s more, just over 40% of the working population don’t even earn that much. Are you saying these people don’t deserve the basic human right to family life, because – shock horror – they married a foreigner? Thousands of families have been split by this rule – it’s inhumane, and indefensible.
Tables courtesy of Migration Observatory Study.
Unfairness rating: 10/10
4. You need to pay through the nose
Assuming you’ve met the requirements above, you are welcome to apply for a UK Spouse Visa. That’ll cost around £2000 (the fees have increased year on year), payable in full, in advance, and non-refundable if the application fails. You must also pay a £600 NHS surcharge, which is refundable.
Ok, now I know you’re joking. So not only do we have to meet a bunch of arbitrary requirements and jump through a dozen hoops to even apply, but now you’re saying it’ll cost £2600? And we only get £600 back if you refuse the visa? All this, just to live in my home country with the person I have chosen as my life partner?
Unfairness rating: 9/10
5. You need to wait, and wait…
Once you have collected your six months of payslips, passed your English test, paid your £2600 and submitted your application, complete with several trees worth of ‘evidence’, you can expect to receive a decision within 3 months.
3 months?! I started this process 7 months ago, and have been separated from my spouse the entire time! Our lives are on hold! Now you’re saying that even though we have met all your requirements and paid ~£2600 for the privilege of applying, you can’t even look at it with any kind of urgency?
Well, there is a priority service – but it’ll cost you another £500..
Unfairness rating: 8/10
6. Guilty until proven innocent
Even after all this, the Home Office employees will scour your application, looking for any reason at all to refuse your application to live in your home country with your spouse. And if they find one, they will provide you a copy-paste based letter of refusal, detailing the reasons why, in their subjective and unaccountable opinion, you are not deserving of your basic human right to a family life in your country of birth.
By the time you read the letter though, you will know – as you will have already received the NHS refund to your bank account. Real classy. And they make mistakes. Oh, and appealing costs thousands more and takes anything up to a year to be processed.
Why is it like this?
So who is to blame for all this? Citizens of EU countries don’t have these difficulties, in fact it is easier for a French/Spanish/Polish person to move to the UK with a non-EU spouse than it is for a British person to do the same.
But I don’t believe the answer lies in making things harder for others just because they are difficult for me. I know people who voted for Brexit because they felt it should be as difficult for EU citizens to enter the UK as non-EU citizens.
Would it not be more positive and forward-thinking to improve the rights of those who have less than they should, than to reduce the rights of those who are being treated well?
Why don’t you go and live in the foreign spouse’s country?
- This is about rights, not personal life decisions. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the right to do something else.
- Sometimes this is not an option if the foreign spouse’s country is not safe to be in.
- Maybe there is no family left in the foreign spouse’s country, and I want to raise my children near to their grandparents.
- Job or career opportunities might be better in the UK.
- I may need to take care of or be there for a sick relative. There are stories of people missing opportunities to be with their loved ones in their final moments, because of these rules.
But it protects the welfare system from abuse, right? Not really…
- The UK Spouse Visa is stamped into the foreign spouse’s passport with the words ‘no recourse to public funds‘ clearly stamped into it. That means no benefits, no welfare, no tax credits. NHS treatment is paid for by the £600 surcharge.
- Regardless, most spouses are not moving to the UK to ‘sponge off the state’. Either they work, or they look after the children allowing the other partner to work. It’s not rocket surgery.
- The whole hysteria about immigrants taking from the UK public purse is massively overhyped. Studies show that migrants pay somewhere between £0.84 – £1.34 into the system per £1 taken out. More information.
- A mother who is forced to be apart from her husband is essentially a single mother, and therefore more likely to be reliant on some form of benefits.
The bottom line
I am unable to live in the UK with my wife because in 2012 the UK government responded to anti-immigration hysteria with the frankly unachievable promise of reducing immigration to “tens of thousands” and have made it close to impossible to obtain a visa for a family member from outside the EU in order to reduce net migration.
Fortunately, living in Malta I am protected by EU legislation and we are able to live happily together, indefinitely – as we should be able to in the UK. Out of the two, I think it’s clear which out of the UK and EU has a more humanist (we are talking about people after all, not numbers) policy for handling this particular situation.
Over 30,000 families, including those with children, are being kept apart by the UK Spouse Visa requirements – I don’t know how many more are affected by the requirements for other visas. The UK government is responsible for keeping these families apart.
Political points-scoring by pandering to the anti-immigration rhetoric is punishing a demographic that cannot fight against it. And it is cruel.