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Report into the impact of family migration rules

The results of an inquiry into family migration rules introduced by the Government in July 2012 have been published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration. The inquiry was launched after cross-party concern that the rules could be causing family members to be separated from each other in a way that was unnecessary and unfair.

The inquiry

The APPG on Migration was established to provide a discussion forum for Members of Parliament on migration related topics, and to be an independent source of well-researched information to inform the development of immigration policy.

The APPG launched the Family Migration Committee Formal Inquiry in November last year. Its remit was to examine the impact of the new rules, with particular reference to the minimum annual income requirement, set at £18,600, which British nationals and permanent residents must be earning before they can bring non-EEA (European Economic Area) spouses or partners to the UK.

The inquiry also set out to look in greater detail at the new rules relating to sponsorship of non-EEA adult/elderly dependents who have applied to come to the UK.

Report findings

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • The income requirement put in place by the family immigration rules has led to some British citizens and permanent residents being separated from their partners, and on occasion their children as well. Some respondents to the inquiry, who were earning the National Minimum Wage or above, said they were unable to meet the income requirement. Based on this and other evidence, the report suggests that up to 47% of workers in the UK would not be able to meet the income requirements necessary to sponsor a non-EEA partner.
  • The income requirement had also led to children being separated from a non-EEA parent and their wider family network for an indefinite period. The report highlights that this could prove to be detrimental to their development and wellbeing.
  • Sources of income that can be included in determining whether the income requirement is met do not always accurately reflect the actual resources available to that family. For example the earnings, or potential earnings, of the non-EEA partner are not taken into account. The inquiry found that in some cases this had led to high net worth individuals being denied entry. The report concludes that as a result of the minimum income requirement, families have been prevented from living together in the UK even though they that had more than sufficient funds to support themselves.
  • The impact of the new rules has been to effectively close the entry route for adult dependent relatives. The report claims that this could prove costly for the country by deterring highly skilled professionals from coming to the UK. Evidence suggests that a number of foreign doctors have already had to leave the UK in order to care for elderly relatives as they have been unable to bring them to the UK to look after them.

Report recommendations

The evidence uncovered during the inquiry has led the APPG to conclude that there is a strong case in favour of a review of these rules.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • The Government should consider whether the current level set for the minimum income requirement, and the resources that are allowed to be taken into account in determining this income, achieve an appropriate balance.
  • Decisions should always be taken with the best interests of children in mind. If these interests indicate that children should live with their parents in the UK, then decision makers should be able to grant entry clearance to enable this.
  • If a UK sponsor is able to prove that he is financially able to support an adult dependent, or the adult dependent is able to support him or herself financially, then they should be given entry.
  • Sponsorship should be possible before the adult dependent reaches the stage of being fully physically dependent on their sponsor.

Report well received by Children’s Commissioners

The APPG report has been welcomed jointly by the four UK Children’s Commissioners, who say that they support the central recommendation of the report calling for an independent review of the minimum income requirement.

In particular, the Commissioners have welcomed the proposal that the Immigration Rules should:

“….ensure that children are supported to live with their parents in the UK where their best interests require this. Decision-makers should ensure that duties to consider the best interests of children are fully discharged when deciding non-EEA partner applications. Consideration should be given to enabling decision-makers to grant entry clearance where the best interests of the child require it.”

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