The £38,700 salary requirement is forcing students, workers and couples to rip up their plans in frustration and distress
Rebecca, 28, a full-time PhD student in biosciences from Liverpool, and her partner, an Australian national working in higher education, are among thousands of couples facing separation and financial uncertainty because of the government’s decision to overhaul immigration rules. Among those affected will be skilled workers, international students, health and care workers from overseas and their family members.
“My partner received her family visa in April 2022,” Rebecca says. “The process to get the visa itself was complicated and exhausting – you have to demonstrate you make enough money to not receive benefits, and so on. The change in rules means that although I earn just over £18,600 in my taxpayer-funded PhD and my partner makes £26,000, we won’t be eligible to renew her visa in January 2025.
“This is because stipend income only counts if there are at least 12 months of it remaining [at the time of application], and at that point I’ll only have 10 months left. My partner’s income alone would have been fine [under the old rules], but not now.”
Under the new rules, which are said to come into effect at some point next spring, the amount people must be earning to bring a family member or partner from abroad to the UK will increase to £38,700 from the current £18,700 minimum income requirement.
For families already residing in the UK, the entire household income will be taken into consideration to determine whether the new threshold is met.
If Rebecca’s partner were to return to Australia, and Rebecca attempted to bring her back on a family visa after her graduation, her income alone would need to be £38,700 or higher.
“My postdoctoral salary of around £36,000 will not be enough,” she says. “We will not be able to stay unless I suspend my PhD studies for a while so we can apply when I have a full year of funding left.”
Rebecca says she and her partner would “absolutely not” have chosen to settle in the UK had they known immigration rules would change.
“We’ve had to pay such large amounts in fees and NHS surcharges – yet still pay tax and national insurance so are paying twice. These fees are now also being increased and, frankly, it feels like my country doesn’t want me here.
“Considering the low-salary society that we live in I would imagine this is only going to increase the numbers of highly skilled but average-earning workers leaving the country. We were just about to put a deposit on a house, now we’re thinking we have to leave our home. It’s incredibly stressful and demoralising.”
Bridget, 41, who is from Zimbabwe, left her two sons, aged 11 and 18, in the care of her brothers this May to come to the UK as a care worker.
“My passion for caring led me to come here,” she says, “but it’s been very painful to be without my children. I miss them terribly.”
Bridget, who has been employed as a community care and support worker since her arrival, has been living in shared company accommodation in Wincanton, Somerset with two other care workers, which would have been unsuitable to house her children also.
She had been planning to find alternative accommodation as soon as possible and to bring her sons to the UK on a family visa but the visa rule changes have dashed her hopes of a life in the UK.
“It puts me in a very difficult position,” she says. “There is no way I can raise my children while they are in Zimbabwe and I am here. If we are separated permanently that defeats the whole purpose [of my being here]. Travelling back home is not exactly cheap and it’s something most of us could not afford to do even once a year.
“If this decision stands, I do see myself going home much earlier than I would have planned. I would have liked to settle in the UK permanently. I adjusted very well and found the people here very welcoming. The community, the workplace and service users have been very pleasant, and working in the British care sector has been quite fulfilling so far as I feel I’m providing a much-needed service.
“Staff shortages in my area are huge in the care sector. My company is still trying to recruit. About half of my colleagues are from overseas. But if I can’t bring my kids I cannot stay.”
Pragyan, a 25-year-old international student from India who has just finished his masters in project management and has a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering, is currently in the UK on a graduate work visa. He is among many students from overseas whose career plans have been derailed by the new policies.
“I have invested nearly £40,000 in education, accommodation, visa and health insurance [by coming to the UK],” he said. “Because the economy is in such a poor condition, there are hardly any companies [willing to sponsor work visas]. Now that the government has increased the rate to a whopping £38,700 to qualify for a visa, it will be impossible for many international graduates to secure a job.
“The new [policies] will separate families, make people lose hard-earned money, and could lead to a future lack of trust in any upcoming government inviting legal immigrants to work or study in the UK. I am deeply distressed, disappointed and worried for my future.”
For James, a 30-year-old British citizen who has been living and working in Taiwan for the past year, the new visa rules could mean that he will be unable to return home.
“I met my Taiwanese girlfriend in the UK and moved to Taiwan because she had to leave the country after her masters degree. Our plan was to get married this month and then next year for me to move back to the UK before [bringing her over]. I would probably earn around £30k in the UK, so with the new rules everything is in jeopardy.”
James estimates that increasing his salary to the new required threshold would take a few years. “This would of course mean being apart from my future wife. In those years we’d miss the opportunity to buy a house or have children.
“I left the UK to learn Chinese, a language that would help in London. I understand that in the UK, a large chunk of the population want immigration to stop. But why are the rules targeted [at people like us]? How can a supposedly diverse cabinet allow for this to happen?
“I used to work in the hospitality sector, mainly in Mayfair. I’ve served Jeremy Hunt; his wife is also Asian. I hope he can see the complexity of this situation.”
Source : The Guardian