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Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Written Submission (2013)

Family Migration Inquiry
APPG on Migration

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RESPONSE BY JOINT COUNCIL FOR THE WELFARE OF IMMIGRANTS TO THE ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP’S CONSULTATION ON IMPACTS OF NEW FAMILY MIGRATION RULES

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (“JCWI”) is an independent, voluntary organisation working in the field of immigration, asylum, nationality law and policy. Established in 1967, JCWI provides direct legal advice and assistance to migrants and refugees and actively lobbies and campaigns for changes in immigration and asylum law and practice. Its mission is to promote the welfare of migrants within a human rights framework.

We welcome this opportunity to comment on and provide evidence about the restrictive and damaging rules introduced on 9 July 2012. Whilst we do not agree that the imposition of the new Family Immigration rules is desirable on human rights, economic or indeed any other grounds, we have endeavoured to provide a brief response to the questions within this consultation. What does the available evidence suggest have been the impacts of the new minimum income requirement and new rules affecting elderly dependents on potential sponsors and/or applicants since July 2012? 1. In our experience there are many families that have been separated or kept apart by these rules. 2. According to the original MAC findings commissioned by the Home Office, it was estimated that 45% of applicants from previous years would be prevented from obtaining a visa to the UK1. This amounts to approximately 30,000 families falling foul of the new rules 2. This number includes refused visa applications and those who would like a visa but have chosen not to apply. We feel this is supplies the best estimate of the number of people who have indeed been affected. 3. Through our legal casework and in our campaigning we are aware of dozens of cases of children separated from one parent, a further financial strain imposed on families who are unable to live as one family unit (paying two rents etc.). This often makes saving impossible or difficult for those wishing to make up any income shortfall. 4. There are markedly more women finding difficulty in raising the required minimum income, either through low paid jobs or because of childcare commitments. We are representing a young

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www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/news/fam-impact-state.pdf accessed 31 Jan 2013

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woman whose spouse has been refused a visa to the UK. She has a young baby son, is experiencing health problems and is struggling to care for their baby, let alone try to earn £18,600.The impact on this family, especially the child in question is immense, whereas the impact on society would be far less if her husband were to be allowed a visa. 5. People living and working outside London are also affected through lower wages, we have evidence of some moving to London in order to raise their income to satisfy the income requirement. This is in contradistinction to the ideals of integration assumed by the justification for these rules. 6. We are also in touch with many people who, in both spouse visa and adult dependent cases, are not applying for the visas as they view this as an expensive yet meaningless request which will undoubtedly be refused. 7. In many genuine family relationships, the deferral of applying for visas and/or re-uniting in the UK has a detrimental effect on family unity, on children’s development and education. We know of people who have British National children stuck with one parent overseas as the British parent tries to earn enough money to bring their non-EEA dependents to the UK. The cumulative effects are at times to effectively put the child’s education on hold, to be taught an entirely different curriculum. This has a deeply negative effect on exam results, career prospects and integration. One man we have met has his wife and daughter stuck in Hong Kong until he can sufficiently raise his income, his daughter is at a fee paying school in order to ensure she is taught in English, but is studying a US curriculum, not a UK one. 8. We know of many people who are experiencing a ‘self-imposed’ delay of six months or more as they struggle to get their finances and paperwork in order, they are regularly hit with further delays as UKBA often take an inordinate amount of time to come to a decision of these

applications. 9. The stress of having to maintain an income of £18,600 for a period of five and a half years, else risk the removal of a partner, a parent to one’s children is immeasurable in these economically turbulent times. How many young people in the UK can be assured of such continuous employment?

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£18,600 wage minimum to bring spouse to the UK, Channel 4 News, Monday 11 June 2012 www.channel4.com/news/theresa-may-wants-uk-judges-to-put-country-before-family

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10. We are aware of people leaving the UK for work or study in other EU countries with the intention of returning to the UK with their non-EEA spouses / partners once they have exercised their treaty rights – in other words taking the Surinder Singh route3. In such cases there is no minimum income requirement. 11. On Elderly dependent relatives. We have heard (from correspondence between Lord Avebury and Lord Taylor) that there has been just one single example of an elderly dependent relative being granted a visa to come to the UK since July 20124. This illustrates the devastating effect the new rules are having on those wishing to care for their elderly parents in the UK. We have experience of a woman who wishes to bring her father to the UK to care for him in his twilight years, she is a high earner, a home owner and is willing to take private health insurance for her father. There is nothing to suggest this man would ever become a burden on the British Taxpayer. Ordinary families are deprived of their rights to live with elderly parents in the final years of their lives, a practice that has been the norm in many societies throughout history.

Does available evidence suggest that the new minimum income requirement for sponsoring non-EEA spouses and partners to come to the UK has been set at the right level? Please provide support for your view. 1. The minimum income level is set far too high. We have cases of young women with children who cannot bring their husbands to the UK. One effect is that their husbands are then not able to sufficiently boost the family’s income or to help with childcare. They cannot afford the childcare needed in order to earn the minimum income required to bring their husbands here. There results a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty. 2. Wage differentials across the country demand that people consider moving to London or the South East in order to boost their incomes to satisfy the minimum income required. A salary of £15,000 in Bradford or Norfolk can finance a lifestyle similar to one that would cost £22,000 in London – there is no accounting for this in the Rules. 3. Many migrant spouses, were they allowed to move to the UK, would earn substantially more than their sponsors. These rules operate upon the assumption that migrants and their spouses wish to claim benefits. The majority wish to work, the rules ignore this fact.

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http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/ecis/chapter2.pdf?view=Binary accessed 31 Jan 2013

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4. The Government state they are looking for reassurances that the couple will be able to “support themselves in the long term and that the migrant partner’s integration in the UK would not be inhibited by a lack of financial resources”5 We do not accept this is a measure aimed at aiding the integration of the migrant partner into UK society, as there is no evidence to suggest that integration is dependent on anyone’s income. 5. The provision to make up a short fall in earnings through saving is especially obstructive. The reasoning given by the Home Office for having a ‘floor’ of £16,000 was that the given amount precludes the holder of the savings from claiming many benefits. We have yet to be convinced that using a multiplier of 2.5 on the shortfall of earnings to add to the £16,000 results in anything but an arbitrary amount of money. We don’t know of any young family earning less than the minimum income, yet capable of saving the amount needed to make up the shortfall. 6. We are also surprised by the way this income requirement is being implemented by Entry clearance Officers. When sponsors are submitting their evidence of income, ECOs are taking the lowest monthly income of the previous six months and using that to determine the sponsor’s income rather than taking a total for the six months overall. This is a particularly harsh interpretation of an already harsh requirement. This appears to contradict the understanding of this requirement outlined in the letter of Lord Taylor which states: “ …the person must have earned the required amount through salaried employment in the 12 months prior to the application.”6 Please provide details of any other economic, social or practical considerations relating to the new minimum income requirement and the new rules affecting elderly dependents which could usefully inform this inquiry. We are particular concerned about two key questions: 1. The ending of legal aid for non-asylum immigration matters in April. This will leave people, who by the government’s own definition and intent are poor, without recourse to legal representation should a decision be made against their application. As John Vine’s report into the processing of family visa applications points out, 53% of appeals are successful, showing firstly the poor quality of decision making, and secondly, the need for legal representation in immigration cases.

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letter of Lord Taylor of Holbeach to Baroness Smith of Basildon dated 1 December 2012 letter of Lord Taylor of Holbeach to Baroness Smith of Basildon dated 1 December 2012

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2. The end to the possibility of third party support for sponsoring spouses. This has closed the door to many people who could have otherwise satisfied the criteria.

The Government stated that its objectives in introducing new family migration rules were to tackle abuse, promote integration and relieve any burden on the taxpayer caused by family migration to the UK. Are the new family migration rules meeting these objectives? What contribution to the reduction of net migration can the new family migration rules be expected to make?
1. We have no evidence to suggest the ‘abuse’ referred to is being tackled or otherwise. 2. We believe that integration is being hindered by these measures, as families are being

forced into becoming single parent families

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ibid

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