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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
World
Miriam Burrell

Family hits out at 'obscene' new £38,700 salary requirement for Britons with foreign spouses

A British mother-of-two who sponsors her Turkish husband to live in the UK has called the Government’s visa changes "obscene" and said they will cause "severe" consequences for families who face being ripped apart. 

Britons will need to earn at least £38,700 to sponsor their foreign spouses seeking a family visa to live in the UK as part of a swathe of Home Office visa changes coming into effect next spring

The minimum salary requirement will jump by around £20,000, and is well above the national average of £34,963, as recorded by the Office for National Satatistics (ONS) in April 2023.

Thousands of families will be forced to find new employment, live apart, or uproot their children - many of whom are British citizens - and move to another country, migrant advocates say. 

"The idea that my children may no longer be able to live with their father in the same country they were born in…is just horrifying," Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz told the Standard. 

The policy and public affairs spokesperson for migrant charity Praxis is sponsoring her husband via a family visa so the couple can live together in Leicester with their two British citizen children, aged three and seven. 

"I feel scared. If the Government can do this to British citizens, curtail our rights to family life in this way, with a stroke of a pen, what’s next?"

Although she currently earns enough to meet the new salary threshold, she fears if she loses her job her family would be forced to move back to Turkey. 

“It’s really, really bleak,” she said. 

“The concept that you can only have a relationship, can only a build a life together with someone that happens to be earning more than 75 per cent of the population is obscene.” 

Ms Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz said the Government’s attempt to reduce net migration in the UK shouldn’t be focussed on the “relatively small number” of British people with foreign spouses - a number she said is around 65,000 annually. 

“It just doesn’t make sense from an economic standpoint. From a social standpoint it doesn’t make sense,” she said. 

“It’s hard to see who wins from this announcement. This is part of package to reduce net migration …the focus is very much on deterring people from coming [or the UK] or those already here. The assumption is they can just go home, but that’s not the reality for many people. 

“[For] children who have been here for several years, it’s not so easy to pack up your life and leave. The consequences can be severe for the whole family.”

There are instances in which Britons on lower salaries could bring their loved ones over if it is considered unduly harsh for a sponsorship to be denied, but this would be in exceptional cases, it is understood.

Changes announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly on Monday also include a 66% increase to a compulsary migrant healthcare surcharge fee, from £624 to £1,035, and the scrapping of health and care workers being allowed to bring dependants to the UK.

The skilled worker earnings threshold is also increasing by a third to £38,700, in line with the median full-time wage.

Further to the Government's plan to slash migration, Mr Cleverly took a visit to Rwanda on Tuesday to sign a new treaty to deport asylum seekers and economic migrants who arrive in Britain by "small boats" to the African nation.

The Home Office said the visa crackdown will "slash migration levels and curb abuse of the immigration system".

Mr Cleverly said: "My plan will deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration and will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so.

"I am taking decisive action to halt the drastic rise in our work visa routes and crack down on those who seek to take advantage of our hospitality."

The changes come just months after visa fees increased by up to 35 per cent.

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