Spouse Visa holders told to rely on ‘savings’ to remain in UK, despite COVID-19 job losses
The Home Office has advised migrants such as Spouse Visa holders in the UK to support themselves with “investments and cash savings” during the COVID-19 pandemic, much to the disbelief of migrants’ rights campaigners.
There are fears that due to job losses thousands of families are at risk as couples may no longer meet the minimum income requirement for the UK Spouse Visa. The visa dictates that the British partner earns at least £18,600 per year in order to ‘sponsor’ their foreign spouse’s visa.
Immigration Minister Kevin Foster, when asked if the department were looking to halt the spouse visa salary stipulations in the fact of the pandemic, said those who have experienced a loss of income could meet the requirement in “a number of ways.”
Foster said: “Income from the couple’s investments, property rental or pension may also be taken into account, together with their cash savings.”
Thousands of families are at risk as couples may no longer meet the minimum income requirement for the UK Spouse Visa
However, migrants are rubbishing the comments as “dismissive” and a demand to meet the impossible considering many people in the UK do not have substantial savings, let alone the £16,000 required to meet the Spouse Visa income rules.
Lynett Alptekin is one of many facing this impending disaster. Married to Hnur, her Turkish husband, she is a fixed-term contract worker who is unlikely to have her contract renewed due to COVID-19. Her partner is a hairdresser currently out of work due to the crisis. They will not meet the minimum salary requirements going forward.
Co-founder of Reunite Families, Caroline Coombs, said: “The rules by their very nature affect those with less income and so what savings and investments are they expected to access?”
Coombs criticised the Home Office of expecting migrants to meet “already challenging” requirements regarding salary, made even worse due to the global health crisis. She stated that the government is now “asking the impossible” of migrants and their families.
The Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants asked an important question: “How much do the government think most people have in savings?”
The government is now “asking the impossible” of migrants and their families
Indeed, the government’s response to the issue appears to be that they believe the average family in the UK can afford to survive via their savings and investments. Recent statistics suggest savings are not a privilege afforded to a significant number of adults in the UK. 15% of Brits have no savings at all and one in three have less than £1,500, hardly suggesting those out of work due to the lockdown measures can afford to pay their essential bills for a significant length of time.
Lack of savings can often be painted in a negative way. Certain sections of the press frequently accuse millennials – those aged 24-39 – of wasting money on frivolous matters thus explaining why they are less likely to own their own homes, yet research suggests that 40% of those surveyed put down their lack of savings to “lacklustre earnings”.
Migrants in the UK work across a wide range of sectors, however, industries such as retail, hospitality, health and social care are particularly well represented by migrant staff, especially EU citizens. Yet it is these very industries where staff risk losing their jobs or face becoming furloughed.
The Home Office said it has already introduced supportive measures to help migrants, maintaining that the minimum income requirement “prevents burdens being placed on the taxpayer.”