TOUGH new immigration rules introduced by the UK government last year are forcing thousands of British families with a foreign spouse, including many based here in Thailand, to live apart.
The rules, described as “mean and heartless” by a leading website, make it much harder for a British husband or wife living overseas to obtain a settlement visa that would allow them to take their partner to the UK on a permanent basis. In the past, a spouse visa was generally granted automatically.
This is currently the plight of a number of British-Thai families who want to return to the UK but, fearing they cannot meet the government’s tough new criteria, become permanently exiled. Other families whose spouse’s visa application has been rejected face the prospect of being permanently divided.
Basically, the rules say that unless someone is resident in the UK, has secure salaried employment of at least 18,600 pounds per year or are deemed ‘rich,’ he or she cannot bring his or her spouse in their homeland.
The amount required increases rapidly with children. An income of £22,400 is needed for the first child, with an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.
Critics say these requirements are especially difficult right now, given the UK’s high unemployment rate. They also point out the ease with which people from newer member countries of the EU can enter the UK.
Elderly dependents have an even tougher time getting into the UK. Indeed it is claimed that only one dependant relative visa has been granted worldwide since the rule changes last July.
Other hurdles for settlement visa applicants include tougher language requirements and a ‘Life in the UK’ test.
Considerable opposition to the rules is mounting, with websites like www.britcits.blogspot.co.uk rallying to the cause.
On its homepage, it comments: “BritCits would like to highlight the grievous harm that is being done to British families by the British government. The new UK spouse immigration rules brought in from July 9, 2012 shows just how mean, heartless and hypocritical our UK leaders are.
“They are basically saying that unless you are resident in the UK, have secure salaried employment at 18,600 pounds per year or are wealthy (the rich rule), you are not welcome to bring your family home.”
It adds: “According to the think tank, MIPEX, Britain has the most difficult-to-overcome spouse, partner, child and family immigration rules in Europe after Norway. But given that average income levels in Norway are far higher than in the UK (as of January 2013), and given the more equitable nature of Norwegian society, this suggests that Britain is easily the most difficult to enter country of immigration in Europe for spouses, partners, children and families.”
One family’s experience of these rules - affecting people across three generations and two continents (source: http://britcits.weebly.com/our-stories.html)
I should have spent this last Christmas at home with my family in the UK. Instead I find myself exiled in a developing country with my British son. My son’s grandparents are in tears at the prospect of never seeing their son or grandson again. I am shocked that I cannot return home. I am horrified that my little boy cannot enjoy a family Christmas or feel the warmth and love of his grandparents.
I have worked in Thailand for the past ten years. My wife is Thai and my three year old son British/Thai. I am desperate to return to the UK to spend time with my parents in their final years. I want my son to know his family and culture in the UK and I want a decent early education for him.
Moving to the UK has become more urgent recently as my parents, who used to visit us in Thailand regularly, are no longer able to travel. My mother and father have both been fighting cancer and my Mum especially is really depressed. She cries every time she sees her grandson on Skype. Seeing their beloved son and precious grandson would be good medicine for them both.
To return to the UK as a family I would have to sponsor my wife’s UK spouse visa application. Not only would I need to show a confirmed offer and signed contract for a salaried job at not a penny less than £18,600 per year in the UK (very hard to secure from abroad), but that I have also been earning the same amount over the last six months in Thailand. I have a good stable job with an excellent salary for Thailand (around £7,500 per year), however this is nowhere near enough to satisfy the new financial requirement. To return home is now impossible. I am effectively exiled.