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.

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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


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