New family visa rules could leave British nationals with a foreign partner facing greater restrictions on who they can live with than migrant workers, according to leading immigration researchers.
According to new rules announced by Home Secretary James Cleverlyis the minimum income for UK nationals wishing to live with family members in the UK up to £38,700, an increase of more than £20,000 from the previous figure of £18,000.
The change has been met with dismay and anger by many of those affected, who now face being unable to live with partners or children in the UK.
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The new threshold is above the average salary earned by 70% of British workers and has been characterized by allowing only the wealthiest Britons to choose who they marry.
The Migration Observatory at Oxford University said it is not clear why the new earnings threshold was chosen and concluded that the rules will leave migrant workers employed in the NHS or other public sector jobs with more rights than UK employees doing the same job.
It said: “At odds, the package taken together means that in some circumstances UK workers will face more restrictive family rules than migrant workers in the same job.”
“For example, NHS health professionals coming to the UK on skilled work visas will be able to bring their non-UK nationals with them.
“A new restriction on relatives applies to care and senior workers, but not to other healthcare jobs.
“But the majority of UK nurses working in the NHS earn less than £38,700 a year and would therefore not have the same rights.”
Their analysis also concludes that the new policy will disproportionately affect women, a smaller proportion of whom earn the higher wages, and exclude almost all part-time workers.
The group said: “While around 60% of men earn less than the new income requirement, this rises to more than 75% for women.
“Nearly all part-time workers’ earnings also fall below the threshold, effectively limiting the right to live in the UK with dependent migrants to full-time workers.”
Sky News has been contacted by dozens of people who face being unable to live with partners and spouses as a result of the change in policy.
A Briton living in China who had planned to return with his Chinese wife said “I feel like I’ve been exiled”.
A British woman with a Belgian partner, who has no immediate prospect of earning over the new threshold, said: “I feel like I’m being exiled from my own country for falling in love with someone.”
The Ministry of the Interior has been contacted for comment.