On Boxing Day morning, most Times readers will have opened a story about tighter rules for family migration, had a quick read and moved on. But, as news spread for those navigating the UK spouse visa process, not only is the timing of this news conveniently cruel, but has now caused huge anxiety and suffering to many innocent, loving families who’ve already been through so much simply because they fell in love.
Suella Braverman intends to raise the current minimum income requirement [MIR} which is currently £18,600. Whilst the information is still very vague, one thing we do know is that any increase of the MIR will cause untold misery and damage to many who are simply trying to be a family here in the UK
For families like Hayley and Jane’s, the impact of the current MIR is heart-breaking. These are just two examples of the horrendous and too often overlooked impacts of the UK spouse visa rules but there are so many more….
When your festivities are cut short by Hayley Cartagena
Christmas Day arrived; facetime calls again took place – it’s like we are still in covid times. but we’re not. For families like mine, Christmas with mummy and daddy is split across continents with daddy only able to open presents with his son over the internet. For mine, after 6 years of this, things are finally looking up – our end goal of being reunited could finally be in sight next year.
Boxing Day comes and the Turkey isn’t even cold, and the music commences for the big announcement…. But wait! What big announcement??? Oh, that’s right it was a quiet announcement so quiet that we all didn’t hear it!
This year one of Santa’s naughty elves, Suella, has snuck in a very unwelcome present to tens of thousands of families like mine. No, it’s not coal…its far, far worse…
Suella, who herself is a child of a global world with parents who came to Britain a long time ago, has decided to close the doors even tighter to Britain even more for loving couples and families like mine. Whilst all the other elves have been busy making beautiful and happy gifts for children, Suella has been tinkering away behind the Santa’s workshop curtain plotting to raise a minimum income requirement that will mean many many children will not be able to have Christmas with their families for a long time to come. From next year even more children will no longer be opening presents under the Christmas tree and hugging both mummy and daddy with squeals of joy and laughter.
What is the MIR I hear you ask? Well since 2012 those who fell in love with a non-Eu citizen had to earn a minimum of £18,600. Now, our present from Suella for 2023 is that they will raise that amount which for many will make it even harder to reunite with our partners and loved ones.
Why has she been doing this? Well one theory could be that minimum wage is rising so that means it puts families in an easier category to bring their spouse to the UK to be reunited – but that’s not true. For many reasons, people like me don’t meet the current MIR and it adversely affects women who are forced into single parenting and juggling one or more jobs whilst doing childcare; it affects young couples; those reaching retirement age and don’t even try to bring a parent or dependent relative over – that’s literally impossible. And the MIR is not the only obstacle you’re easily looking at £4,000 to pay for the application and other charges that go hand in hand with it. Over a course of 5-10 years, we are looking at a hefty cost of loving bill that could easily go up £20k
And now post Brexit this also affects European citizens – so this brings a conclusion that the UK government does put a price tag on love!
Now if we look at our government on their personal lives – if this rule was here when their parents came to the UK – the likelihood is that they wouldn’t be here and nor would they be in a place of power. At the last count approximately 15,000 families were affected by this rule! This will be higher now and will grow.
What if bad health comes in to play? They don’t care
What if you don’t make the MIR? You can’t renew your visa
What if? What if?
So many what ifs? But what if the government reflected on their own party and looked at their immigration history, if they really had a good look in the mirror – would that change their view – no! Why?
It’s a money-making exercise… with the headline it stops immigrants coming and claiming benefits, but this is a lie and scaremongering; people on a spousal visa or family visa aren’t entitled to benefits… but what it does do is it makes us as a single person household/parent and entitles me to gain full single person benefit… doesn’t make sense does it? As if my husband was here with me and had his visa – I wouldn’t be a single parent so the benefits would stop – or reduce! And at a time when I, like so many households across the country, are struggling to make ends meet, my husband could be here with me, helping us financially, mentally and emotionally – like a normal family. He’s not here for the benefits – he couldn’t get them anyway with ‘no recourse to public funds’. He’d be working and paying into the economy – paying his taxes like everybody else. That’s where the saving on taxes is needed – they are so ignorant to their own rules they can’t even see the simple maths…
I don’t want to rant but I do want to fight for all those children that cry for their papa or mama when they are sick, but they can’t have them for comfort
For every mother and father single handily trying to run a house, working all hours they can whilst having young children and missing out on first steps and words as one parent was working so hard to get the other parent here.
For every parent who sits alone and can’t see a way out.
For my child for my child to know that it’s not his fault his papa isn’t here for your child to know that they are loved…
There will be other festivities, there will be other rules that blindside us – but if we don’t fight – what is the point?
We are here as one! I am only one, you are only one but together in numbers we can, and we must be heard!
To our government, we need to say Stop the cost of loving increase and reunite families like mine – not tear them apart. To Suella, I say remember your own roots – don’t bury them so far underground for others that they have no room to grow.
The MIR should be scrapped not increased to prevent destroying families by Jane Yilmaz
When we think of Christmas, we tend to automatically think of family time. I recall with sadness Christmases 2016 and 2017 were the times when the Christmas cards were written to just me and my daughter as my husband could not be in the UK because I had failed to meet the MIR. We should have been spending Christmas together as a family.
This year at the same time as I prepare to go out for a post-Christmas family meal, I am hearing in the news that Suella Braverman is talking of increasing the MIR (Minimum Income Requirement) for foreign spouses/partners of British Citizens. Let me make it clear now that this does not just mean non-EU citizens married to British Citizens. Since Brexit, this also includes EU citizens.
The MIR is the amount of money that a British Citizen must earn before they can bring their non- British spouse to the UK. Currently the MIR is set at £18,600. This may sound like a more reasonable amount by today’s standards in comparison to when it was introduced in 2012, but a full-time minimum wage job still does not meet the requirement and I believe that no price tag should be placed on love. Especially when it separates families for what can be never-ending periods of time and children can be forced to live without a parent for sometimes up to 10 years. And for families who are now close to meeting the current MIR and finally able to put in an application, a potential increase will be devastating.
“What?!” I hear you say. “But you are married, and you have a child”. And it gets to the point where with a very puzzled expression on their face they say “Well what have they done wrong? Are they a criminal?”. Because your average everyday person cannot comprehend the hoops a British Citizen has to go through to live together with their foreign spouse as a family when you are married, and you have a child.
Sadly, my story doesn’t have a happy ending and even more sadly I am not alone in this. After 10 years of marriage, I can safely say that the MIR had a devastating trauma placed upon my family that was irreparable.
Back in 2016, in theory, I had no issue meeting the £18,600. I was a UK qualified teacher and made the decision to return to the UK with my family. After living in Turkey for 6 years I naively returned to the UK thinking I could settle my then 6-year-old daughter in school and get straight out to work, any job would do – we would be apart for 6 months, then we could apply and before we know it, we would be a family again. So, we embarked on this journey and then I found I couldn’t find a teaching job. In fact, I couldn’t find any job that would offer me a 12-month contract as required, and most jobs that were Minimum Wage jobs would not even be enough! It took me 12 months to find a suitable job to meet requirements and I had to work that job for a further 6 months before we could apply and so by the time my husband obtained his visa, we had been separated for almost 2 years. Our application was straight forward. We were considered lucky in comparison to some families.
But we were not so lucky. This whole journey put an awful strain on my daughter’s mental health and as a knock-on effect, my own mental health suffered. Prior to this I had never had any issues with my mental health. Since this journey I have consistently needed Mental health support having been through the strain of the visa process, the uncertainty surrounding the whole journey and then the relationship ending. I had also never needed to rely on benefits to help support me but since going through this process I have at times needed benefit support. This crazy Conservative government thought putting an MIR in place in an attempt to save the public purse and making us a part of that anti-immigrant hostile environment rhetoric has caused the public purse to pay out more. The government would prefer a family to be separated and then pay for it over the long term.
It doesn’t end there. My daughter. She was fine when we lived in Turkey as a family. But since we moved to the UK has suffered with severe anxiety to the point of collapse on a couple of occasions and confirmed by two hospitals in two different countries that the separation from her father was the likely cause. She also suffers with Selective Mutism. I don’t think I am alone in thinking that having lived as a family unit for the first 6 years of her life, to suddenly lose her father until I could meet the MIR and then lose me to the world of work so I could get her father here there is no wonder she was showing severe signs of anxiety. Then we spent another 18 months trying to rebuild our life in the UK together as a family. My husband unable to do a job he was qualified to do as a teacher in Turkey and so worked in a local supermarket. The financial pressure and deskilling of my husband had a massive impact. Then covid hit and the pressure was too much for our relationship to bear. Our relationship broke down and we separated, and he went back to Turkey. More trauma, more mental health support required. A huge risk that didn’t work out and left her feeling abandoned twice. She’s 12 now and we are yet to see the longer-term effects of this has but I can definitely say my daughter has lived and experienced things that no child should have to go through. Children should be allowed to be children and not worry about the things we do as adults. On top of that, no parent should have to weigh up a choice to spend money between an extra-curricular activity or Daddy’s visa fees.
As part of going through this process I co-founded Reunite Families UK. I wanted to do what I could to support other families going through this process and to campaign against these rules. Our latest project that we are working on is the impact on children that these rules have. In our first meeting I joined other families who are currently going through this, and I left traumatised as I recollected everything that we went through, and families are still going through this. It will not get any easier now. We are in a cost-of-living crisis and it now also impacts more EU families.
When families spend time apart it really isn’t easy. When you are asking families from different cultures to spend a very long time apart it is even more difficult. Everything you built together, everything you worked towards together and all the compromises you worked on to get to where you are then become completely lost.
I have so much respect for all single parents. But imagine being forced against your will to be a single parent, having to earn £18,600 pa and with this current news now potentially more, pay for childcare, cover the costs of 2 households in two separate countries, at a time when the cost of living is also contributing to such miserable times for a lot of families, and then on top of that save up around £4,000+ to pay for your first visa that lasts 2.5 years before you need to pay for another. This is what keeps British families separated from their spouses for a never-ending period of time with no way out.
I know when faced with such pressures, many families along the way do not make it. It destroys your relationship. Those relationships that make it are never the same again. Even when you think you have made it and finally your spouse is here you have to start all over again in every way.
I am relieved that I no longer have to navigate the immigration system for myself – but at what cost? I would say it was a huge contributing factor to the break-up of my family.
So here we are again 6 years later and with great sadness again we received the Christmas cards written to just me and my daughter.
Family is not an important thing. It is everything.
Families belong together.
CALL TO ACTION
There are 2 simple things you can do to help make our voices heard.
1. Sign our Open Letter
Please go to the link below and sign our Open Letter to our Prime Minister asking him not to Increase the Minimum Income Requirement.
2. Write to your MP
We have composed a draft letter to send to your MP. Please feel free to edit it if you are or have been affected – the more personal you can make it the more impact it will have. Click on the link below.
Please share this link with your family and friends and across your social media platforms.
On behalf of the affected families at Reunite Families UK we would like to say Thank You.