To APPG on Migration panel It was lovely to meet you all last week.

As requested by Lord Teverson, please find below some suggestions on how immigration into the UK can be managed better, whilst also ensuring new entrants don’t become a burden on the state. I also provide my thoughts on a wider scale, on non-EU spouses and non-EU parents of British citizens. As a British citizen and taxpayer myself, I am not keen on seeing anyone - be they British, other EU citizen or non-EU citizen - sponging off benefits or abusing the NHS. As a human being and a British citizen, I’m just as keen to ensure families aren’t destroyed in the race to satisfy an arbitrary net migration target that is out of touch with our global position, economic health and indeed, our responsibilities to people, especially fellow citizens. The rules in place are reminiscent of ethnic cleansing, forcibly exiling British citizens who have nonEU families; they reek of age, sex and race discrimination and it is appalling that in 2013 we seem to not have learnt from past experience. PARENTS In the case of parents, the goal posts have not only been moved, they’ve been removed. The current rules make it impossible for a parent to join their adult British child in the UK, whether or not either one of them is rich/poor, healthy/ill, old/young. I have asked several MPs to give me three examples of situations where someone could satisfy under the new rules and still be able to get on a plane to reach the UK. I have not even received one. There are many people, myself included, who may not have made UK our home if we had known years ago that our parents weren’t welcome. We would not have invested our time, money, careers, family here if we had known that we’d need to be elsewhere to look after those who gave us life. Contrary to some of the propaganda fielded around in the media, ageing parents aren’t jumping over themselves to join their adult British kids in the UK – it is not easy, especially as you get older, to leave all that is familiar to you. This is evident by the fact that even under the previous rules – which were made stricter under the previous government, the total number of adult dependant visas issued per year, was in the region of 3000. The number of parents within this 3000 is unknown, but regardless, we can agree it’s a tiny number. The fact that there is no income threshold for the sponsoring of parents is in itself telling and evident that the rules are not to simply minimise the burden on taxpayers. The government is aware that almost all those wishing to sponsor their parents and pay a fee of around £2000 to do so, are on high incomes, well-settled and extremely unlikely to be claiming benefits themselves. The rules in place are such that they therefore encourage British citizens to leave UK in order to look after those that gave them life. As Dr Nathanson mentioned at the second APPG meeting, this conflicts with the verbal message from the government, and actually lead to British citizens whose occupation may be on the skills shortage list, being exiled from their own home, often taking their skills and experience with them to benefit another country, at the expense of the British taxpayer! Bear in mind this is a group that is unlikely to ‘steal our jobs’..they’re more likely to create jobs. They’re also likely to bring wealth into the country, by selling up their assets in their country of origin and bringing the funds to the UK. It would be more responsible of the government to admit it is now not possible for a British citizen or permanent resident to sponsor their non-EU parents to live in the UK with them. This way, innocent people are not effectively donating c£2000 for an application that is guaranteed to fail. Surely, it is

tantamount to fraud to be charging for the processing of meeting a criteria, knowing the criteria cannot in fact be met because it’s contradictory? We’d be up in arms if a private sector firm treated consumers in this way – why is UKBA exempt? Some suggestions: a) Bond/guarantee. Australia requires a bond of $10,000 held for two years against the risk that the parent will claim benefits. Interestingly, they encourage their citizens and residents to bring their parents over when they are younger/healthier to encourage integration and allow them to contribute to the Australian community, whether as childminders, volunteers etc. Alternatives or additions to a bond may be a written guarantee or ring fenced assets. b) Income threshold as is in place for spouses. It does not make sense that on an income of £80,000 or so, the government deems it feasible for a British citizen to sponsor a non-EU spouse and 20 of their children, but not one parent. c) Mandate private healthcare cover for at least things like cancer, heart conditions etc to reduce reliance on the NHS. Bear in mind though that we do have reciprocal policies with countries like Australia whereby British parents moving to Australia enjoy the medical system there. And more British parents move to Australia than the other way around. d) Reserve the right of sponsoring parents as that of British citizens only. This is similar to what is in place in USA. Or indeed, those not already in receipt of benefits. e) Have a long-term visa whereby British citizens/residents can have their parents live with them for two consecutive years i.e. a long-term visa, similar to Canada. Particularly as parents age, it’s difficult for them to keep moving every few months. f) Have a quota system, limiting the number of non-EU citizens that each person can sponsor over a period e.g. 2 people every 5 years. This prevents abuse and is fair as by definition, parents are limited to two. g) A rolling 3-5 year visa so that if the British citizen’s situation changes and they are no longer able to look after their parents, then the visa is not renewed. Fees need to be borne in mind for this as it’s not right to keep charging thousands of pounds every few years as some sort of cash cow.

SPOUSES Living with your spouse and children is a right, not a privilege. Living in your country of nationality is also a right, not a privilege. There are many problems with the current rules and my suggestions on how they could be made more fair address some of these problems. a) Have income thresholds which reflect income and cost of living in the region of the country the sponsor is working/living in. b) Allow for assets in the test – this way a pensioner who doesn’t need an income of £18,600 a year, but lives in a property worth £300,000 isn’t forced to sell his/her home to show cash of over £60,000. c) Allow for the individuals expenses and debt. If people are living within their means and not claiming benefits, they should not be penalised because they don’t earn more than they need to.

d) If the government deems £18,600 is the amount needed to fund a basic lifestyle, perhaps a rise in the minimum wage is called for. e) Ensure British citizens are not disadvantaged in comparison to non-EU citizens. I provided an example at the APPG meeting of a British citizen studying for a postgraduate degree who would need to earn £18,600 to live in the UK with his/her spouse. Yet , a non-EU postgrad student does not have to meet this requirement to live here with their family. This very much represents discrimination against our own by UKBA. f) Prioritise cases involving kids. At no point should British children be ripped apart from their mother at the age of 5 months as was mentioned at the meeting. This is disgusting and we should hang our heads in shame that we have let this happen to our own, in what is supposed to be one of the greatest countries in the world. g) Allow for the potential income of the non-EU spouse, to prevent women having to abandon their kids, or stop breastfeeding their babies just because they need to earn the magical £18,600. As it can be very difficult to find a job from overseas, perhaps issue a job-seekers visa for these kind of family members and/or take into account their assets and income overseas. h) The rules require submission of six consecutive payslips showing that £18,600 can be achieved. As JCWI mentioned at the first APPG meeting, UKBA appears to be taking the lowest payslip to annualise the sponsors salary. This is especially an issue for those who work on commission or seasonal employment. It’s of even greater concern when you consider that someone who is earning way over the monthly average a month for 5 months, then falls ill and so earns less in the sixth month is therefore required to start the entire six months waiting period (plus the application time) again. Disallow them from taking the lowest payslip to annualise. APPG on migration could perhaps contract Migration Advisory Committee to counter the government’s use of their report i.e. the misuse. For the sake of clarity, let’s bear in mind that non-EU citizens, whatever their relationship to a British citizen, need to have been settled here for at least five years, before they qualify for any form of welfare benefits or council housing. Indeed, their presence here could mean the British citizen qualifies for lower or nil benefits themselves. Treating those with non-EU families in this manner means not only do you make integration of nonBritish citizens in the UK more of a challenge, it means British citizens like myself, with non-EU families spend more time and money travelling overseas – taking hard earned money that would otherwise be spent here, and also preventing me from integrating more fully within my own community because my time is limited. Finally, if the government’s aim is simply to reduce net migration at whatever cost, a simple solution is to put Theresa May in the position of Prime Minister and no doubt we will see emigration of British citizens rising. I would be happy to discuss any of the issues or ideas with you if it would serve to help British people reunite with their family – whatever their ethnicity, religion, skin colour or wealth. Kind regards Sonel Mehta