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Immigration Rules Impact on Family Wellbeing

Recent research has revealed that up to 15,000 British children are separated from one of their parents because the Immigration Rules introduced in July 2012 do not allow both of their parents to live together in the UK.

As a result, say researchers, many children are reportedly suffering from significant stress and anxiety and have to rely on Skype to keep in touch with the stranded parent overseas.

The research, which was commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner for England from Middlesex University and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), examined the impact of recent changes to financial requirements of the Immigration Rules on the wellbeing of children and their families.

The researchers found that the UK has the least family-friendly family reunification policies out of 38 developed countries, largely because families with only one parent who is a British citizen need to earn a minimum of £18,600 per year to sponsor their partner’s entry into the UK. This is 138% of the minimum wage and is preventing many families with children from living together in the UK.

The Children’s Commissioner has outlined recommendations for the Government to address the issue of separated families, including:

  • increased flexibility when calculating a family’s income to reflect family support available and local wage levels,
  • inclusion of a requirement to consider the best interests of every child affected,
  • amendment to forms and guidance to ensure decision-makers properly consider children’s best interests in the decision making process,
  • changes to the cost of applications and the application process,
  • grant of visit visas to parents of children living in the UK, and
  • improvements to data collection and publication of applications.

“The Government is under a legal obligation to treat the best interests of children as a primary consideration when implementing rules and policies,” commented co-author Saira Grant, Legal and Policy Director (JCWI). “The current family migration rules fall woefully short of this and children’s best interests are often reduced to a mere exception.”

“In an ongoing attempt to reduce migration the Government has introduced rules which are now adversely impacting on British citizen families and children,” she added. “This must surely be an unintended consequence but one that must now be urgently addressed.”

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