In this together

The most family-friendly government strikes again. At the weekend, Theresa May announced changes to immigration rules which will force many families to choose between splitting up or leaving the country. What strikes me about this particular move is that it’s perhaps the first time that this government has admitted that it hates both poor people and immigrants in the same breath. The Tories have a history of playing us off against each other, but in this case, we’re clearly “in this together”.
It’s difficult to get exact numbers at this stage: The Guardian quotes slightly higher figures for the income requirement than Conservative Home, but it looks like in order to be able to settle in the UK with your spouse who is not a EU citizen, you’ll have to demonstrate that you’re earning somewhere between £18,600 (ConHome) and £25,700 (Grauniad). For a couple with two children the income threshold rises to up to £46,260.
For perspective, the median income of a full-time worker in the UK is £26,244. As by far not all of us work full time, the overall median income is actually considerably lower. The Home Secretary is essentially sticking up two fingers at over half the UK population and saying “Tough, if you fall in love with a filthy foreigner you’d better be prepared to leave the country.” And if you dare to have children with a filthy foreigner, we only want you if your income is in the 90th percentile.
All of this is allegedly to protect the “tax payer” from having to support immigrants coming in on family visas. As in most cases only the UK citizen’s income will count towards the initial assessment (unless the spouse is already working in the UK on a different type of visa), this completely neglects the earning potential of the immigrant spouse and assumes that they will never contribute to the UK economy. Insulting doesn’t even begin to cover it. Add to that the requirement for the immigrant spouse to speak English and the proposed “attachment test”, and we’re beginning to see a certain pattern here of government small enough to fit in our bedrooms. I sat through 20 minutes of Ms May lecturing on the benefits of marriage (gay and otherwise) at the Stonewall Workplace Conference earlier this year, but this makes it clear that some marriages are more equal than others, and that having cash definitely helps make you more equal.
The Guardian estimates that somewhere between 45 and 60% of the 53,000 family visa applications a year will not be compliant with the new rules. Brooke Magnanti has some thoughts on what exactly the government is trying to achieve with this new measure. Suffice to say that’s a lot of families the “most family-friendly government in history” will be breaking up.

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