Since 2012, the government has imposed an £18,600 income requirement threshold for British citizens and others living in the UK who want to bring their spouses and partners here to live with them. The threshold rises further if children also need to be brought over. The government has also in recent years imposed crippling fee rises for visa applications in addition to introducing the health surcharge for immigrants. It has also offered wealthier applicants the opportunity to pay even more for a faster processing service. Taken together, these measures have produced a new form of wealth inequality in Britain – between those who can afford to live with their foreign spouse, and those who are priced out of enjoying a basic human right.
The high costs are indicative of a system designed to deter immigration applications, in line with the government’s commitment to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. In this briefing, we argue that this approach has resulted in the loss of a family life for many thousands of people, and should be replaced with a fair and humane approach based on recognising the inherent value, rights, and dignity of people seeking to live with their loved ones.