The Home Office has rowed back on plans to increase the salary threshold for Britons wanting to bring a family member to the UK after a backlash.
Home Secretary James Cleverly told the Commons earlier this month that the threshold for a family visa would rise from £18,600 to £38,700 by “next spring” in a bid to reduce the number of people coming to the UK.
But documents released by the Home Office suggest the threshold will now only rise to an initially lower figure of £29,000, while no timeline has been given for when the higher threshold of £38,700 will be introduced.
Sir. Cleverly unveiled the pay change as part of a five-point plan to reduce legal migration after net migration hit a a record 745,000 last year.
Other measures announced in the plan include a ban on carers bringing their families and raising the minimum wage for a skilled work visa from £26,200 to £38,700.
The backtracking on the family visa was confirmed by Lord Sharpe of Epsom in a reply to a written parliamentary question.
Lord Sharpe highlighted how 75% of the UK population currently meet the minimum income requirement of £18,600, but that only 30% would meet the proposed salary threshold of £38,700 based on earnings alone.
He said the minimum income requirement would be increased in “incremental phases to provide predictability” and that in the spring of 2024 it would be raised to £29,000.
No date was given for when the threshold would rise above £29,000 in Lord Sharpe’s reply.
Sir. Cleverly said after the update that it was “vital that British workers are not undercut and that we ease the strain on our public services.”
“The measures I have announced prioritize those who will contribute significantly to our economy while cracking down on those who seek to take advantage of our kindness.
“Today I have provided further details on how these measures will be applied and when they will be introduced.
“This plan will deliver the biggest reduction in net migration ever, with around 300,000 fewer people coming to the UK compared to last year, delivering on our promise to bring the numbers down.”
In response, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “You have to wonder who is in charge of the Home Office, or if anyone is.
“It was clear to everyone else that raising the earnings limit was unworkable.
“This was another half-baked idea to appease the hardliners on their own back benches.
“James Cleverly needs to put down the spade and stop digging. Decisions like this should be made by experts and politicians working together.”
Leading immigration researchers warned that the new family visa rules could leave British nationals with a foreign partner facing greater restrictions on who they can live with than migrant workers.
The Migration Observatory at Oxford University concluded that the rules will leave migrant workers employed in the NHS or other public services with more rights than UK employees doing the same job.
During Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Labor MP Sir Stephen Timms warned that the marriage plans of “thousands of couples” had been “disrupted” by Mr Cleverly’s announcement.
Rishi Sunak said the UK had a “long-standing principle that anyone bringing relatives to the UK should be able to support them financially”.
“We should not expect this to be at the expense of the taxpayer and the threshold has not been raised for over a decade, it is right that we have now brought it in line with the median wage.”