UK citizens and permanent residents who wish to bring their spouses into the country from outside the EU are being treated unfairly, admits Home Office Immigration Minister James Brokenshire.
New requirements, introduced in 2012, mean that only those who earn a minimum of £18,600 per year can sponsor a spouse visa of a non-European Union spouse or partner. The requirements were introduced in the hope that fewer immigrants would claim benefits.
However, these restrictions are not applicable to citizens of other EU nations who have temporary visas in Britain.
Since the new minimum earnings rule, which was introduced in July 2012, thousands of UK citizens have been unsuccessful in their attempts to bring a non-EU spouse into the country.
Minimum Income of £18,600 required
When the new legislation was implemented, the government stated that only British citizens, or residents who earn a minimum of £18,600 per annum are permitted to sponsor the visa of a non-European Union spouse.
The income threshold rises for families with children. A family with one child must have an income of £22,400, and for each additional child £2,400 is added to the threshold.
Recently the Home Affairs Committee chairman, Keith Vaz, has commented that the legislation is flawed. He referred to an example provided by a member of his Leicester East constituency.
During a committee meeting on February 10, Mr Vaz said: "Two people living in identical houses next to each other - one who happens to be British born or a person with indefinite leave tried to bring someone from India, they have got to show their £18,600."
"However, the next door neighbour who comes from Slovakia, who has settled in Leicester, and who wants to bring her spouse in, doesn't have to show that income. That's unfair isn't it?"
Mr Brokenshire stated that the Labour MP was 'correct to raise' the issue and he plans to hold discussions with Britain's EU partners regarding the matter.
He said: "I don't find this situation acceptable and it's something that quite clearly needs to be addressed."
In the unlikely event that this changes anything it is likely to simply make it more difficult for others to bring their spouses to the UK. It is unlikely to help those who are currently unable to bring in their spouses to the UK.
High Court Appeal to remove minimum income requirements rejected
However, appeals to remove the minimum income threshold have been fruitless thus far. On July 11, 2014, the court of appeal upheld the lawfulness of the income requirement.
James Brokenshire was in favour of the court's ruling. When it was passed, he said: "We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established in the UK at the taxpayer's expense and family migrants must be able to integrate."
The Home Office estimates that the income threshold prevents 17,800 family visas from being granted every year.