We live in an increasingly international world where everything from communication, travel, business and relationships are no longer restricted by geography. The industrial revolution paved the way for a rapid expansion, and the invention of steam engines and then internal combustion engines pushed us further. Commercial air travel stretched us further, and the jet engine pushed us faster. The twentieth century then threw the internet into the mix and really began to change the way the world community interacts and expands.
It’s an exciting time to be alive, indeed, and the pace is not slowing. But the fast pace is coming up against a resistance as the world begins to kick back against migration as world population numbers surge. It’s almost as if an over exited chef kept throwing fresh ingredients into the pot to add as many nutrients as possible, but now the pot is getting filled up he must stir it far more carefully or else all his hard work will get spilt and wasted.
There are probably many reasons behind it, but thanks to increased mobility and the internet communication freedom, more and more relationships are starting and blossoming between couples from different countries. It’s no longer unusual to hear of someone meeting their life partner online, or indeed from a foreign country. Even though this was still considered taboo – and illegal in some places – well into the twentieth century, it seems clear that integration of different cultures is an everyday factor, especially in countries like the UK.
What does a Spouse Visa cost?
And yet even with all this positive idealism there is a dark shadow hanging over us. When people are a British Citizen and they want their spouse from another country to join them in the UK they can apply for a Spouse Visa. It’s a reasonably simple type of visa, but it has one major factor that scuppers many people: the minimum income requirements of the British Citizen. Unless they earn £18,600 a year, the spouse visa option is not open to great many people. No other reason; no other justification; no other restriction; just simply the amount they earn.
The original idea behind the restriction was to reduce the number of people coming to the UK and being reliant on the tax payer. However, the problem is that law does not take into account the income of the Spouse in any job they have in their home country. The BBC article on the issue pointed out that around half the population does not earn the minimum requirement (which is due to rise).
So why have this law? Who does it benefit? Who does it hurt?
It depends entirely upon what perspective you look at it from. Considering it pragmatically, there has to be some kind of rule or line drawn, otherwise migrants could come to the country, destabilise a family unit that was otherwise financially sound, and that could result in the need for tax payer support. That would be a further drain on the state. If the spouse has savings of a substantial nature, this can be taken into account. However, if they have a job (which will end when they leave their home country) that income clearly can’t be taken into account. Logically.
“But won’t someone please think of the children?”
A major problem is caused when children are involved. If a child is prevented from seeing their mother or father due to these rules, we have to wonder who is really benefiting from the law. Depriving a child of a relationship with their other parent could be seen as cruel, perhaps even a breach of the child’s human rights. I would certainly argue that the restrictions do arbitrarily separate some children from one of their parents, and that just isn’t fair. I would argue that up to a point…
Firstly, children are a huge responsibility and financial cost for any couple, so having a child should always include some kind of sensible consideration of the suitability of the time, place and situation. Surely? It might sound idealistic, and of course there are so many examples when the ideal world for child rearing is far from the reality. But who is expected to foot the bill if the parents cannot afford to? In the UK the welfare system is in place for citizens when they need it, but its not supposed to be used for the sole purpose of adding a new person to the population from another country. Adding a child is one thing; adding an adult who is financially dependent is different.
So in a way it could be argued that a line has to be drawn somewhere. But is that line fair? If someone earns just under the minimum of £18,600 someone else earns £18,500, the former would be eligible to apply for the spouse visa, but the latter would not. However, since the whole process of applying, with full legal advice will cost around £2000, that will leave the former with £16,600 in their account for the year, AND an extra mouth to feed. I realise my numbers are in the extreme, but that is a significant amount of money for low earning families.
More than just a number…
Perhaps that is where the problem really lies. The only families that this law affects are the poorest families. Obviously that is the point of the law, to prevent more people becoming dependent on the state and the tax payer. But at the same time it places restrictions on people simply because of their financial background as if love, relationships, children, family, and all the life security that brings, are to be the reserve of only those who can afford it. What if the British Citizen in the example above whose earnings were only £18,500 a year had been earning more, putting everything in place, and was then subject to a reduction in wages through no fault of their own? For the matter of £100, their spouse visa application would no longer stand.
It’s very easy to take a simple stance on the issue, but it takes a lot more to remember that these are the lives of people being affected. Families are being disrupted, children being kept from parents, and so on. Perhaps there are other ways the spouse might come to the UK, such as by getting a job and moving over on those terms. Or what if the couple could find other funding sources?
That is exactly what the supreme court has said in their decision that the law does hold generally but in the interests of children’s rights it might need some review. The Supreme Courts finally decided: the “rules and instructions” require amendment in relation to the duty towards children, and other funding sources available to the couple.