By Dani Porter
UK Parliament announces strict new immigration rules that will make it even tougher for non-European partners and relatives of UK residents to settle here.
A key point of the Conservative manifesto was the aim of reducing the number of immigrants to the UK from 200,000 per annum to tens of thousands.
Although unable to affect the numbers of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, the main immigration route into the UK, they have made decisive new rules aimed at clamping down on family migration, the third biggest reason for entry to Britain.
Last week Home Secretary Theresa May announced a number of proposed new family migration measures that will mostly come into effect on 9 July. They will only apply to people given leave to enter or remain in the UK after that date.
According to the UK Border Agency, these revisions follow wide consultation and expert advice from the Migration Advisory Committee. The changes include a higher salary threshold, increased probationary period and a citizenship test.
A non-EEA spouse, partner, fiancé, civil partner or other family member joining a UK resident will now have to earn an income of £18,600 or higher. To put that into context, 47% of UK residents currently earn less than this minimum requirement. Until now a couple has needed just £5,500 plus housing costs. But it seems that the majority of these changes (unless otherwise stated) will come into force one month from now, on 9 July.
The two-year probationary period for settlement of spouses has now been increased to five years, in order to keep tabs on the validity of the relationship.
Previously, couples with one UK citizen were allowed to settle here if they could give evidence of having lived together for four continuous years elsewhere; this has now been abolished in favour of the five-year probationary period. Elderly relatives will only be able to join family in the UK if they can prove that they need ongoing care that they can only receive here.
From October 2013, all applicants for settlement must pass the Life in the UK Test, which comprises 24 questions on Britain’s politics and society.
Here are some example questions*:
Q: What is a quango?
- A government department
- A non-departmental public body
- An arm of the judiciary
- An educational establishment
Q: In which year did married women get the right to divorce their husbands?
Q: The official report of the proceedings of parliament is called
- the Speaker’s notes
- The electoral register
- the Constitution
Q: Children between the age of 13 and 16 can work
- 10 hours per week
- 12 hours per week
In order to pass you need to achieve a score of 75% or more. In addition to this, non-EEA nationals are also required to pass an English language qualification.
These proposed changes have been dubbed ‘anti-family’ by several groups and individuals. They threaten “British citizens’ right to have a family, or at least qualify it severely”, Chris Mead, who set up a blog on family-migration woes after jumping through hoops to get his New Zealand-born wife into Britain, told The Economist.
These proposals, however, are not set in stone.
“Until primary legislation says otherwise, it is for the courts to decide on the interpretation of [the new family migration measures],” said London barrister Adam Wagner.
*The answers to the above questions are as follows: a non-departmental public body; 1857; Hansard; 12 hours per week.
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