Controversial restrictions on UK family visa rules eased after uproar

Controversial restrictions on UK family visa rules eased after uproar

The UK has decided to reduce a contentious minimum salary requirement for family visas, saying it will now gradually increase the threshold.

On December 4, the Conservative government announced a series of measures to tighten legal immigration.

One was a requirement that British citizens or people already settled in the UK would need to show they earned £38,700 (€45,233) before they could bring an overseas partner to live with them.

The move was blasted as an "effective ban" on Brits marrying foreign nationals, with only 27% of the population earning this amount or more.

There were fears families would be torn apart.

Now the government has changed the threshold to £29,000 (€33,000), though it has said the level of required income will gradually adjust. The current minimum salary for a family visa is £18,600.

The changes - coming into force from April 2024 - will facilitate predictability for families, according to an official press release. No dates have been given for the gradual increases.

"I don’t think the government has done this with families in mind, I think it's done it with ideas of electoral fortitude," Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, a policy and public affairs manager at non-profit migrant advice organisation Praxis, told Euronews.

"If they really wanted to help families they’d do a proper equality impact assessment and get some independent advice on what this is going to mean for families and what this is going to mean for the rights of British citizens," she added.

Rights groups have threatened legal action against the government over the salary limit, with some claiming the new £29,000 threshold is still too high.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has said that his package of immigration reforms, which included raising the income requirement for a skilled worker visa, will result in a significant reduction in net migration.

He estimated that approximately 300,000 fewer people would arrive in the UK compared to the previous year.

Further measures include restrictions on students bringing family members to the UK starting in January, with exceptions, as well as a 66% increase in the fee for foreigners accessing the National Health Service, now set at £1,035 (€1,200).

Official statistics published at the end of November revealed that net immigration, the difference between arrivals and departures, reached 745,000 people last year, surpassing the initial estimate of 606,000 people.

The government's multifaceted approach aims to address immigration challenges while maintaining financial stability and support for families arriving in the United Kingdom.