Expat Life

State of the UK: Family Immigration

Next week, I promise that I will write about my actual experience applying for FLR(M), some of it is boring but some of it might be helpful to others. Today, I want to get on my soapbox for a second. While I have some reasonably strong beliefs, I try to keep this space as open and neutral as possible. 

I am fortunate enough that Sam and I have jobs. Jobs which pay these exorbitant visa fees. Even both employed, we struggle to hit the high financial wage minimum. If you worked full time on minimum wage, you’d be almost £5000 below the financial cap and your application would be automatically denied. While £18,600 does not sound like that much, it is a level of income that most people working full time on minimum wage will fall well short of. It is a level of income that is not within the reach of a huge proportion of people within the UK. It might be hard to support a family on minimum wage, but many, many people do with no recourse to public funds. I find it morally reprehensible to set a price tag on love, one that a sweeping portion of Britons can’t achieve.  

Again, I have to admit my privilege in acknowledging that not only were Sam and I financially viable, but I’m a citizen of a “trusted” country, well-educated, with English being my native language. Despite having a master’s degree, some of the wording on the application itself was so mind-bogglingly obtuse, that I ended up in tears, Sam in fits of confusion and just threw caution to the wind and guessed. And we have hundreds of thousands of pounds of education between us. My heart goes out to anyone who has struggled through any visa application in a foreign language. 

When faced with financial minimums, high upfront costs, dense documentation wording and extremely long wait times, I can absolutely empathise with those who try to immigrate illegally. Do I support it? Not at all. I’m not one for breaking the law, especially when it’s about something as huge as nationality.  But can I understand why they felt forced into making that decision? Yes. 

Currently, the Supreme Court in the UK is hearing a case to challenge this ridiculous minimum income threshold. And before anyone starts using any shouty, shouty Daily Mail capitals, no a foreign spouse cannot become a sponge, soaking up hard working people’s public funds. In fact, stamped in huge letters across all my official documents  is “No recourse to public funds.” So the argument that the income cap is necessary to prevent a drain on the welfare and benefits system is null and void because even if there was no income cap at all and neither Sam or I had jobs, I wouldn’t be entitled to any benefits. You can’t drain something you can’t touch. 

I’ve also read, “Well, if you don’t like it you can be apart.” Or “Just move to the other person’s country.” But as anyone who has even moved for a partner can attest, there are reasons why one party moves and not the other; family commitments, career commitments, school- the list goes on and on. And “just don’t come to the UK” can’t be a valid Plan B. It’s a huge oversimplification of an earth-shaking decision. There are more areas of grey and intricacies to life than “If you don’t like A, do B”. 

I am grateful that the UK allows immigrants into the country, and I would never take my current leave of remain for granted. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think the system is flawed. Ultimately, it’s up to you as an individual to decide whether you think living with a spouse or partner is a right or a privilege. Personally, I know what side I’m on, but I know many people will think me wrong. I’d like to live the words from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16) here “(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” And (3) “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” We must take a step back and truly consider the state’s infringement into family life. 

Sometimes I wonder where human compassion has gone; not just about immigration and not just in the UK. The US system is just as flawed. In this time of political tension, I want to remind everyone that a little sympathy can go a long way. Staunch political divisions do little to actually improve a country, where as bipartisan cooperation can do wonders. While the political centre of a country is constantly changing, there’s always room for miles more education and a bit of heart.

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset
And despite my critiques, I do love the UK and I am proud to live here. 

I recommend the following articles as a starting point for learning a bit more about family immigration. 

Draft EU Rules


You Might Also Like

  • I agree. With everything. i’ve been through everything here and I agree. The whole trying to work out if you’ve earned enough (not easy when your partner is freelance) and having to prove it with payslips, tax slips and banking transcripts. I still don’t see why they needed to know everything I spent money on in the last 6 months. You can see I earn x amount and that it’s enough to support us as long as neither of us explodes for the time being. Why do you need to see exactly how I spent my cast 5 weeks ago? That’s just an invasion of privacy. Ugh. The whole system. Permanent Residency costs more than £1000. If you then want citizenship it’s almost another £1000. This is why we stopped taking holidays. I’m so happy you can stay, though!

    • Ha, only for another 2 1/2 more years and I have to apply one last time. (For ILR). And then after that fore citizenship. (Because I don’t trust the government enough to not cancel ILR down the line. Visas are exactly the reason why we don’t really do fun things because it’s where ALL our extra savings go! x

  • Merry in The Ferry

    I completely agree.. and I find it so hypocritical when people complain about ‘foreigners taking our jobs’. How many British people emigrate and work elsewhere? I mean us Brits went and colonised half the world, so we have a lot of blame on ourselves! The world is a global place and whilst there have to be restrictions on benefits and rules to immigration those rules should be fair. A colleague who has worked at my college from many years has not had her contract renewed. She met her husband here (Scotland). They are both from China but have lived here for many years, she has a teenage stepdaughter with him and a 1 year old son. He has a good job here. They have their whole lives here and now because her contract has ended she is now facing having to leave her family and go back to China. It is cruel and unfair.

    • That story of your colleague is heartbreaking. They’ve clearly established a life here, and have only done good things for the system. England can only benefit from positive families being in the country in the long run. I hope she finds a way! x

  • I couldn’t agree more, it’s not a pleasant experience to go through at all – last year we applied for my spouse visa and it was many hours of confusion and stress, followed by more stress in waiting to find out whether it would be approved or not. Almost 6 months later it was, but we had to have some serious ‘what if’ conversations!
    And yes, people do forget that whole ‘no recourse to public funds’ thing… do you also get the ‘stop stealing our jobs’ one too?!

    • Yep. I’ve definitely got that as well. I once had a someone literally yell at me that I should “go back to my own country”. And I view myself as lucky. I know that being from America already puts me in a position of privilege compared to other immigrants. My heart really goes out to everyone who has it much, much worse than I do! x

  • I couldn’t agree more! I kept nodding at every sentence, and as someone who’s about to go into the whole process of applying for a visa, this sort of thing terrifies me. Looking forward to reading your experience about that. I need every information (and luck) for this thing! xx

  • A great article, Amanda! I really agree with you – I think ignorance is what fuels all the people on the other side and those who are against taking refugees and all that – which I believe will be the wrong side of history one day. It always gets to me when they talk about draining public funds – like you, my visa says no recourse to public funds, and when I was unemployed, looking for work, I still had to pay for council tax and all those things that some British people seem to take for granted or think everyone has access to. And I so agree with the fact that the ‘just leave then’ mentality is so weird – it is an earth shattering decision of choosing what country to move to when you’ve fallen in love with someone from another country than yours. Glad you got your leave to remain though! Fantastic! 🙂

    • Yes. Yes. Yes. I also personally believe that they will find themselves on the wrong side of history as well, but I’ve found it really hard to argue with people who want to tighten restrictions because they are basing their decisions on fear rather than facts. xx

  • I really, really love this, especially the paragraph before the photograph. “Sometimes I wonder where human compassion has gone” – too, too real.

  • Wow. I had no idea how much red tape was involved in this process. Very interesting read. I feel ashamed sometimes when I hear about how difficult it is for other people to obtain a visa to enter the US, especially when we’re considered a “trusted country” like you said. “If you don’t like it, leave” is a chillingly American reaction to have in this case (obviously NOT in a good way). It’s crazy that people can be so insensitive, or be completely unable to put themselves in the shoes of someone going through this. I’m glad you made it out the other side, though 🙂 Hopefully things will improve in the near future.

    • Haha, not quite through the woods yet. I’ll have to go through the process one more time still to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain, but I’m extremely hopeful.

      It makes me really sad that America is associated with such a negative reaction in the first place, and it saddens me even further that the UK, as my adoptive country has taken that on board as well.

      I am hopeful for a future when immigration can be viewed as a positive again, but am terrified of the idea of a Trump America and what that means for the rest of the world 🙁 xx

  • It genuinely blows, and I count myself lucky I got in when I did because I’m not sure I’d even make it now! The public funds thing gets me going every time, because like you and so many others, I had a big no recourse to public funds as well. Do they think people who come illegally are going to magically be able to get funds when people in the system aren’t allowed? Unlikely. And why would be pay thousands in visa fees to get a very very small benefit later down the line? Also unlikely. Very well thought out and articulated post!

    • Thanks Danielle. The rationale behind most of the arguments that immigration is bad is just completely irrational, and based on a lack of understanding of the rights that immigrants are actually entitled to! x

  • Fantastic post, Amanda! I 100% agree with you. It terrifies me about how hard it’ll be once Carlos and I move back to the UK, as he won’t be a student then. It’s extremely tough and unfair, and something that needs to be made fairer.

    • My thought and well wishes will be with you for the future, whatever path you two decide to take! x

  • Flawlessly written. I struggled with my own visa issues, and although I had a job (that paid above minimum wage) it still was not enough to extend my visa. It is a grueling process not matter what country you decide to immigrate to, and I absolute sympathize with anyone who struggles with it.

    • Definitely. The UK and the US are being particularly stringent at the moment due to their current political climates, but the rest of the world is following suit. We can only hope for a future when immigration is viewed as a good thing again! x

  • My husband (then fiance) moved from the UK to the US 5 years ago. Everything you say in this post rings so true! The process is so stressful, confusing, and expensive. I felt like I was just waiting around for the government to decide how I could live the rest of my life.

    You have my sympathy! : )

    • It’s definitely not a situation that is unique to the UK. But it’s only after you’ve gone through something similar that you realise just how much control the government has over your life! xx

  • Oh my dear! Big hugs to you! I’ve been in that exact situation and I know how demoralising and dehumanising it can be. It’s not always a feasible option for everyone, because not ever UK partner is in the position to temporarily abandon their career in the UK, but have you two looked into the Surinder Singh route? It’s a legal loophole that allows a UK citizen to bring their non-EU spouse into the UK, after working in the EU for a bit of time, and exercising their rights as an EU citizen and instead of entering their home country of the UK as a Brit, they enter with EU rights instead. https://www.gov.uk/family-permit/surinder-singh It definitely delays everyone’s lives and careers but it might get you here faster! xx

    • Aw! Thank you so much, I really appreciate that!

      Surinder Singh is such a horrible option, to be honest. It pretty much means that everyone involved has to upheave their lives, but I always like to mention it just in case someone needs a plan B. My thoughts are definitely with you and your situation! xxx

  • I had similar experiences here in Canada, it is so difficult eh?

  • Miu

    I love you so much for this article!

    To all these people who complain that it is way too easy to come to the country: Have you actually tried it before? If you’re not rich and from certain other countries, it’s almost impossible! And this already starts with a simple visitor’s visa, because officials are scared you might go underground.
    But what makes me all the more angry is, that from other certain countries you do not need ANYTHING to immigrate. Just come and it’s fine…

  • My story can’t be more different from yours. I’m from an EU country, so I literally packed my things in the car and I moved. I didn’t need anything else for me. To get my dog with me I had to wait for his rabies vaccine to be at least 6 months old, to take a blood test and wait for 21 days to get those results. I had to stop in France and get another stamp on his passport. And my dog is pure breed with all the paperwork checked (pedigree, passport from birth, microchipped by the breeder from when he was 2 months old). This is why it took much longer for me to get to UK, while my husband was already here, working.

    I don’t think it’s fair, from an EU country anybody can move when they want and, sadly, many take advantage of the system. For example, if the parents work in UK and their children are in their EU countries, they still get child benefits. I was amazed to hear that, why would they receive money when their kids aren’t living in UK? And, on the opposite end, someone with a University degree from US/Australia has to earn £19,000 to get their spouse here. I don’t think it’s fair.

    • I also don’t think the system is fair but I don’t the solution is to penalize people from the EU to even it up. The UK (alongside with the States) has one of the harshest immigration systems out there and I think it can be looked at with a lot more humanity than there is currently at the moment. There’s this absolutely insane case at the moment, where the NHS hired a doctor from America but won’t let him bring his two adopted sons over from America (they are little kids still). When asked if they were violating his human rights the Border Agency rules that no, because they aren’t stopping him from parenting, because he can always TALK TO HIS KIDS ON SKYPE INSTEAD. Here’s an article on it: it’s absolutely insane, you have to read it: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/aug/04/us-surgeon-may-be-forced-to-quit-uk-because-of-visa-nightmare

      • I don’t think relocating to another country as a right, but as a privilege, so I think a fair immigration system should be in place. By fair I mean the same rules for everybody and a set of clear guidelines to follow. I saw the case with the doctor. It’s a shame these things happened, their story is tragic. This is why I said the rules should be
        clear. If he was from Spain or France, he could have come with all the children without any issues.

        I think before a visa is approved, the migrant should prove they have the means to support themselves for at least an year or that they have a job offer. I know a couple from Romania who sold their car and moved to London, in 6 months they managed to spend all their savings on rent and food. As they didn’t get a job, they moved back, without any money in bank and no car. I think it would have been better for them to be deterred before getting here.

        • See I think starting to call it a privilege not a right is where it gets complicated. Because if Sam and I packed up and moved to Japan (a place where we have no connection then that would be our privilege).

          But the current rules punish or vilify families that are transnational. Why should a man/woman be punished for falling in love with someone from another country? Saying you have to make X amount of money to be able to have the BASIC HUMAN right to family is a travesty. That’s why I can never support a means test to immigration.

          For every 10 stories about people abusing the immigration system from where ever they are in the world there are 100 stories of people playing by the rules and being punished for it, or playing by the rules and thriving and helping their new homes.

          • I was born in Romania when it was under communist rule. Back then, visiting a country outside the communist bloc was something amazing that few people got to experience (and they were vetted by the security). After the Revolution (I was 6 at the time), things changed, but slowly. I was in my mid 20s and married when Romania joined the EU and visa-free travel started (we took advantage and went in The Netherlands for our honeymoon). So, for me, moving to UK was similar to your example of moving to Japan, a place with no connection.

            What you call punishment, for me it’s a set of rules that, unfortunately disadvantages some people, as all laws do. We have different backgrounds, so different opinions too. I really enjoy our talk, I hope you do too. 🙂

          • Of course love hearing different opinions on it.

            But I still think that it is a right not a privilege and one that is sanctified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That’s why the UK was threatened to be taken to the European Court of Justice – the rules that it set are too draconian and infringes on human rights. What use is the right to property if you don’t have the basic right to love who you want to?

          • Let’s think of what happens in other countries from Europe. In Germany 2 months ago was illegal for a gay couple of marry, there are other countries where it’s still illegal, including Romania. Sadly, countries are still struggling to offer basic human rights to their own citizens. So, being taken to the European Court of Justice for not allowing someone from another country to move in UK seems a bit too much, especially when it’s not illegal, but just hard.

          • I’m sorry but I think that’s flawed logic. No it isn’t just hard. If you aren’t rich enough that you aren’t allowed to live with your husband or wife. Full stop. There’s nothing you can do at all if your wife is Indian you are British and you don’t make an arbitrary amount of money that the government has set. It’s been set with classist and racist agenda and it’s absolutely disrepectful of basic human rights. That’s discrimination and inequality based on poverty. It’s a stones throw away from not allowing some one to marry someone of the gender, sex or race that they chose. If you’re gay you have no choice over it. If you fall in love with someone who is a different nationality you have no choice over it. Discrimination against either should be illegal. Because it isn’t a case of just being hard. It’s a case of being arbitrarily deemed worthy enough to be allowed basic human decency.