UK Government’s ‘5-point plan’: Too poor, or too ‘foreign’ to love?

Written by: Jane Taylor


Does love have borders or a bank balance? Do you have to have a particular nationality or income in order to love? Effectively, according to new legislation changes in the UK, the answer is ‘yes’.

Ignoring the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee, Home Secretary James Cleverly has recently announced sweeping changes to UK immigration legislation, the most shocking of which is to raise the family income threshold for sponsoring a partner from £18,600 to £38,700. This means, for example, that if a British person wants to bring their non-British spouse to the UK on a family visa, in most cases they will need to be earning at least £38,700.

It should be noted that since this announcement, the Home Office have now quietly confirmed that this threshold increase will not leap from £18,600 straight to £38,700 as they would have liked. Instead, it will be increased incrementally to give ‘predictability’ to families. However, the intention is still to increase the threshold to the full £38,700 in the long run.

There are limited exceptions to meeting the minimum income requirement through employment earnings, including holding cash savings of at least £62,500, which may also increase. There are other circumstances where the minimum income requirement can be avoided, including being in receipt of Personal Independence Payment or Carer’s Allowance or in circumstances where ‘unjustifiably harsh consequences’ may result from a refusal of the visa. The people who can meet these exceptions are clearly limited.

For the rest, they will need to be earning £38,700 per year or their partner will not be able to come to the UK legally. This salary is far above the state’s National Living Wage, which is set to be £11.44 per hour from 1 April 2024, equating to £22,308 per year if working a 37.5 hour week. It stands to reason that this new legislation will disproportionately affect those members of our society who often earn lower incomes, such as women (in particular those with children, who are more likely to be working part-time), young people and ethnic minorities. The proposal seems to suggest that those earning below £38,700 do not have the right to fall in love with someone from another country and expect to be able to live with them in the UK. Far from being a fundamental right, for many people it will depend on how much they earn.

At the same time, Cleverly, labelled as ‘Jimmy Dimly‘ by The Guardian’s John Crace, has stated that immigration policy must be “fair, legal, and sustainable”. I leave the reader to judge whether the proposed legislation fits these criteria.

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