“Our Dream Plans Have Been Shattered.” Long-Distance Families and the UK Spouse Visa

Multi-national families separation plight worsened by Brexit and tightening UK immigration rules

UK Spouse Visa applications are becoming harder for many couples to make. Furthermore, with changes to the immigration laws quickly approaching, families looking to migrate to the UK face a long and expensive road ahead.   

The Visa process is already notoriously time-consuming and expensive. Every person applying must pay the high Home Office fees, including for each child in the family. The UK Spouse Visa has the highest refusal rate across all visa categories. Consequently, it can have a devastating effect on relationships and family life.

For example, over 10,000 spousal visa applications were rejected last year totaling 10% of all applications.

Additionally, couples now face even more uncertainty from the new points-based immigration system. As of the 1st January 2021, all EU and non-EU citizens migrating to the UK will be treated equally. The Government’s policy states: “We will deliver a system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK and prioritizes the skills a person has to offer, not where they come from.”

“We are implementing a new system that will transform how all migrants come to the UK to work, study, visit, or join their family.” But for those affected, ‘joining their family’ isn’t always that simple. 

Struggling to meet the criteria

Meeting the demands of the Visa is a barrier many just cannot afford. The current minimum income requirement is £18,600 with an additional £3,800 for one child and £2,400 for every additional child after the first. The fees can be even higher for people who need to pay for English language tests and the translation of documents.

Over 10,000 spousal visa applications were rejected last year totaling 10% of all applications

Figures released by the Migration Observatory show 41% of Britons do not earn enough to fall in love with a foreigner. Every year thousands of people are forced to separate from their partners because they can’t afford the sponsorship fees. Since the income requirement was introduced in 2012, over 55,000 applications for UK entry visas as a partner of a citizen have been refused.

Not only does this cause a huge amount of stress for married couples, or long-term partners but it has a devastating effect on their children. According to the Children’s Commissioner for England, at least 15,000 children are separated from their parents, thanks to the UK’s strict income rules.

“Our dream plans have been shattered”

Crucially, the UK’s financially motivated law draws the divide between low-income separation and privileged family unity. Many families’ financial situations have been impacted by the pandemic, causing them to fall below the minimal requirement.

Amy Lee (not her real name) moved to the UK from South Africa to start a new job. Her hopes of reuniting with her long-term partner in the UK are dwindling, due to the added financial pressures and strict income requirements.

She told us: “Moving to the UK as a South African citizen has always been tricky because of the legal requirements. I am living here on an EU passport and my partner holds a South African passport, the plan was for both of us to move together.

“Due to minimal salaries, we haven’t been able to make that happen. My furlough salary pushes us out of the bracket. Our dream plans have been shattered.”

The Brexit effect

Brexit will only heighten the plight of many families under the UK immigration rules [Image Garry Knight, pathforeurope.eu]

Britain’s transition period is only weeks from ending when the practical effects of Brexit on millions of people’s lives will start in earnest. All European entrants will lose their right to free movement across the UK. Multinational EU-UK families will then face the Home Office hostile environment as non-EU citizens have done for many years.

Crucially, the UK’s financially motivated law draws the divide between low-income separation and privileged family unity

Above all, the changing UK-EU relationship risks separating loved ones. Moreover, even British couples may now find it harder to get back to the UK. Members of states across the Channel face a potentially hard fight to live in a country they could have once called home.

[Header image: Wikipedia Commons]