Thursday, 22 December 2016 06:41


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The Scottish National Party has warned that many families will face Christmas apart this year as a direct result of the Tory government’s obsession with draconian immigration rules.

In July 2012 the UK government introduced restrictive income threshold requirements that now mean any UK citizen (or settled person) wishing to sponsor a spouse to live with them in the UK must earn a minimum of £18,600, rising to £22,400 for a first child, and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child. The minimum income must be met entirely by the UK citizen, no account can be taken of the foreign spouse’s prospective earnings, family support, or local wage levels and living costs. Previously the salary threshold had been £5,500 per year and included the prospective earnings of a spouse. [1]

The UK government’s changes have had a disproportionately negative impact on people in Scotland, as 41% of UK citizens in Scotland do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse, and 53% do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse and child. This compares to 27% and 34% respectively in London. [2]

As a result many families are set to spend Christmas apart. Last year the Children’s Commissioner in England estimated that there were around 15,000 UK children growing up in ‘Skype families’ – whose only contact with a stranded parent abroad was via Skype – because Tory immigration rules do not allow both of their parents to live together in the UK.

A report by the Commissioner found “many children are reportedly suffering from significant stress and anxiety from the separation of their parents as a result” and called for increased flexibility in the rules and a requirement to consider the best interests of children affected. [3]

Commenting Stuart McDonald MP, SNP spokesperson on Immigration, Asylum and Border Control, said:

“Christmas is a time that brings families together but the Tory government’s draconian immigration rules are now actively keeping many families apart – separating spouses and keeping children away from their parents.

“The new Tory immigration rules are unreasonable, inflexible, irrational, and they are having a disproportionately negative impact on people in Scotland. It cannot be right that around half of Scottish people earn less than is now required by the restrictive income threshold that the UK government has imposed – migration rules should not suit the richest few at the expense of the majority.

“The evidence shows the one-size-fits-all rules make no sense. People who could be united with their loved ones, who would make a valued contribution to society and a valuable contribution to the economy, are instead being excluded to the detriment of the country.

“Added to this, thousands of children across the UK face the intolerable situation where their main contact with their stranded parent is through Skype. The best interests of these children is clearly not being considered and understandably they are suffering stress and anxiety as a result.

“Instead of obsessing over damaging and arbitrary targets, and adding to the hostile environment that is turning skilled migrants away, the UK government should reform the immigration system so it meets Scotland’s needs and makes the most of the huge economic and social benefits that migrants bring.”

Chai Patel, Legal & Policy Director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, added:

“Almost half the people in the country are deemed to be too poor to be allowed to marry and live with a foreign spouse in the UK.

“We live in a world where it is more possible than ever to travel and to communicate across borders and it is natural for people to meet and fall in love and to have children.

“What is cruel and unnatural, is a government policy that separates British citizens and British children from their parents and loved ones based on an arbitrary income threshold that many cannot meet.”


Notes for editors:

[1] The Minimum Income Requirement for Non-EEA Family Members in the UK:
[2] See Table 2, ‘Percentage of British nationals not eligible to sponsor a non-EEA family member by region of the UK’, Page 12, ‘Report: The Minimum Income Requirement for non-EEA Family Members in the UK’, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford:
[3] See ‘Report: Skype Families’, Children’s Commissioner for England:

CASE STUDIES: [Contact details available on request]

[1] Martin Turner: moved from London to Brazil with his Brazillian wife Monica. They lived there together for ten years before deciding to move back to the UK in 2014 for family reasons. Martin now lives in England but does not meet the income threshold to sponsor Monica to live in the UK too, even though they believe they would easily earn more than the threshold between them where she allowed to move to the UK and allowed get a job. They are now one of the many “Skype families” who can only spend time with each other over the internet and phone ad will spend this Christmas apart.

Commenting Monica Turner said: “I’ve been married to Martin for more than ten years but we now face spending this Christmas, and the foreseeable future, apart because of the UK government’s restrictive immigration rules. When we decided to move back to the UK, for family reasons, we found the door shut straight in our face, and Martin was forced to leave me behind in Brazil. If I was allowed to stay in the UK and work Martin and I would easily earn more than £20,000 per year. Instead, we are living apart on two different continents, in a Skype relationship, with no idea when we’ll be together again. Our lives now are daily webcams and messages, and this year I spent my birthday without him again. . It was probably my worst birthday. Now I am just dreading Christmas – it will probably be spent apart with us crying on the webcam. This law needs to be challenged – thousands like us are being left in the same situation.”

[2] Carolyn Mathew: lives in Bo’ness with her children. She has been with her South African partner for sixteen years, but because she does not meet the UK government’s minimum income threshold and her application to sponsor him to move to Bo’ness was rejected on that basis. As a result he is currently only able to visit from South Africa for short periods on a visitor visa. They have appealed the decision and are now taking the case to a tribunal – adding to the stress and anxiety they face.

[3] Paul McMillan: is a medical student living in Glasgow, whose partner is a qualified social worker in the USA and wants to move to Scotland to live with Mr McMillan and help improve the lives of Scots as a social worker. Under UK government rules that do not allow prospective earnings of the foreign spouse to be considered Mr McMillan is unable to bring his partner to the UK and now believes he will be forced to leave upon graduating. Mr McMillan says: “if these xenophobic immigration rules are not reversed, and if the Conservative Government do not build a skilled migrant and family friendly immigration system allowing my partner to join me in the UK, then I will leave immediately upon graduation and in doing so walk away from the NHS”.

[4] Catherine Khadijah Owoyomi: is a complaint handler at a bank, living in Royston, Glasgow, and married to Khalid Owoyomi a Nigerian national. Mrs Owoyomi does not currently earn enough to meet the UK government’s threshold to sponsor her spouse and so has to travel abroad just to see him. Mrs Owoyomi is also now the primary carer for her parents since her father was diagnosed with Leukaemia, and has had to cut her working hours as a result so now has little hope of meeting the restrictive threshold and being permanently reunited with her husband.

Commenting Catherine Khadijah Owoyomi said: “Since marrying Khalid I have been fighting an uphill battle with the UK government so that my husband can come and live here with me. The current rules for obtaining a spousal visa are very restrictive, particularly the financial requirements. It has been determined that I don’t earn enough because of my employment circumstances, as I am paid as a contractor, and as a result I have to travel a great distance and at great expense any time I want to visit him. This in turn is costly and reduces my ability to earn. If I lived in London I would earn slightly more and meet the threshold, even though the living costs there are significantly higher – the rules make no sense. I love my country and I do not want to leave Scotland but as the current rules stand I may have no choice but to migrate to another country just so I can have a normal family life with my Husband. I feel like my life is currently on hold while I battle to get him a visa. In the meantime due to the restrictive nature of visitor visas for people from Nigeria he is not even able to visit me as he has to be able to demonstrate “strong ties” to his home country, such as having a wife there, to prove he would “return home”.

[5] Kenechukwu Onukwube: is a UK citizen living in Aberdeen. Originally from Nigeria, Mr Onukwube was working as an engineer in the UK oil and gas sector, on a good salary, until he was made redundant as a result of the difficulties currently facing the sector. Mr Onukwube now works for a security firm, on the minimum wage, and is working about 60 hours a week in an attempt to reach the UK government’s threshold for sponsoring a spouse and child. Mr Onukwube’s wife Uchechukwu Linda Onukwube, and their two month old son, both live in Nigeria as a result of the UK government’s restrictive income threshold for sponsoring a spouse. Mr Onukwube has only seen his son once and is suffering as a result.

[6] Saeed Mohammadi lives in Cowcaddens, Glasgow, and works for UK government department HMRC. Mr Mohammadi has been applying for a spouse visa from Iran for his wife, Mandana Reisi Nafchi. They are a couple with no children so they are subject to the limit of £18,600. Mr Mohammadi currently earns £18,593 so he is £7 short of the minimum income requirement and, because UKVI take into account gross earnings only in the calculation of the minimum income requirement, even if Mr Mohammadi works only 1 hour of overtime a year to make up the shortfall, the visa gets refused. Mr Mohammadi is currently on his third application for his wife.