UK visa income thresholds a concern for key migrant workers

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

The income requirement to bring in spouses and partners into the UK has been highly controversial since it was first introduced.  Many thousands of people have been prevented from bringing in their partners.  

This affects partners of UK citizens and partners of those with indefinite leave to remain (a type of permanent residence status).  It is actually easier for those with temporary status to bring in their partners.  Without a high enough salary or other source of income or savings partners are unable to gain entry in the first place. In addition, the financial requirements under “Appendix FM” are confusing and complicated.  Some partners will also not meet the requirements for an extension.

A report published by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has found that many key migrant workers on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus, fear falling below strict UK visa income threshold requiring an income of £18,600 per annum.  More is needed if there are children. This is needed to bring in non-EU/EEA partners of British citizens and those with indefinite leave to remain.  According to the report, many feel forced to work because of the threat to their UK immigration status if they don’t earn enough.

More than 100,000 NHS personnel in England, plus about half of full-time female care workers and 25 percent of the teaching workforce continue to put their lives at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite not earning a salary that would allow them the right to a life in the UK, according to the JCWI’s ‘Families on the Frontline’ report.

The JCWI, which campaigns for the rights of migrants, says that more than 7,000 families have been in contact with them, expressing concerns about how they will be able to stay together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK immigration income threshold rules

In 2012, new UK immigration rules were introduced, which meant that British citizens and any other person with permanent residence status in the UK who had a non-EU partner must be earning a minimum of £18,600 a year if they wanted to build a life together in the UK.

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus across the UK, which has claimed more than 31,000 lives, more than 40 percent of people in Britain earned less than £18,600.

Families Together campaign officer at JCWI, Mary Atkinson, said: “As the full economic impact of this global crisis begins to be felt, this proportion is likely to rise to unprecedented levels, with many more people out of work or in insecure and low-paid work.”

The JCWI is urging the Home Office to suspend the minimum income requirement immediately and abolish it entirely once the coronavirus crisis eases.

Atkinson said: “The Home Office has so far refused to give these families the certainty they need, by dropping the income rule during this emergency. Yet many of those who are priced out of a family life are the very key workers whose essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic is rightly applauded.”

However, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The minimum income requirement prevents burdens being placed on the taxpayer, but we are keeping immigration requirements under review and will make adjustments if necessary.”

“We are already supporting people with their immigration status by granting automatic extensions to visas so that people are not unduly affected by circumstances beyond their control,” the spokesperson added.

Thousands fear for their UK immigration status

A report published by The Guardian, highlighted cases of families whose UK immigration status is threatened should their income fall below the threshold.

Wife of British citizen Ahmed, care worker Salma has lived in the UK for two years. Her visa is up for renewal in the coming months and she fears she will be unable to remain in the UK with her husband and their young child if their income is affected during the crisis.

According to The Guardian report, Ahmed earns £18,000 working full time, while Salma works as a part-time care worker providing essential care for young adults with physical disabilities. Both Ahmed and Salma live in fear of their income dropping during the pandemic.

Salma said: “The protection at my work is far from adequate. My employer doesn’t provide face masks, despite the intimate care I provide for my clients, but I don’t feel able to complain because my situation is so precarious.”

“If the worst happens and I do get the virus, I’ll have to face not just a deadly disease, but also the prospect of being separated from my family because of the drop in income. I’m scared to go to work. I’m risking my life every day to work with inadequate protection. It’s a violation of our human right to a family,” Salma added.

Coronavirus in the UK

As of 11 May, cases of coronavirus in the UK had reached 219,183, with 31,855 deaths reported.

On 10 May, Workpermit.com reported on Boris Johnson’s plans to bring the UK out of lockdown in a series of stages. Mr Johnson addressed the nation at 7pm, saying: “This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.”

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