North Devon MP Nick Harvey has called for a new part of the immigration rules to be urgently reassessed.
A ‘financial income requirement’ states that anybody wanting their non-EU spouse to move to the UK with them has to be earning at least £18,600 – or more if their spouse has children. This applies universally throughout the country, regardless of regional differences in average earnings.
The requirement has proved controversial since its introduction in 2012 and has been found to be keeping thousands of families apart. Studies have also shown it comes at a net cost to the Exchequer, and disproportionately affects women and ethnic minorities.
Harvey has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) criticising the arbitrary figure and suggesting greater regional flexibility be permitted. To date it has been signed by 34 cross-party MPs.
Nick said: “A number of my constituents, who have been separated from their families under this arbitrary cap, have come to me to explain the frustrating and painful consequences of this rule. In an area like North Devon, where wages are among some of the lowest in the country, people with foreign spouses are being unfairly penalised. The Government effectively seem to be saying, if you aren’t a high earner and want to be able to live with your family, don’t marry somebody from out of the EU.
“Clearly spouses and families should be adequately supported, but this should be done in a way which accounts for the different needs of families. Under this rule almost half of people in the South West would be ineligible to have their spouse join them, which hardly sounds reasonable.
“A study by Middlesex University found that this requirement actually costs the Exchequer money – the precise opposite of the intention. It is causing unnecessary heartache for many and I hope that sooner or later the Government will look again at it. I am urging all MPs to sign my Early Day Motion 709 on this, which calls for greater flexibility in the way this rule is applied.”
(from a press release)