Like countless other parents across the country in recent days, Guy Bailey had prepared his son Vincent for his first day of school. As they left the house, he took a photograph of him proudly dressed in his new school uniform. Yet despite being happily married, this snapshot will be the only memory his wife, Vincent’s mother, will have of the occasion.
The Baileys are just one of thousands of British families who have had their lives torn apart by changes to family migration rules brought into force last July, which insist on a minimum £18,600 salary for anyone sponsoring a visa for a non-EU spouse.
The rules will be argued over once more in Parliament today as Andrew Percy becomes the fourth Conservative MP to speak out against the income threshold, with an adjournment debate examining the law. In July the High Court described them as “onerous” and “unjustified” but stopped short of forcing a change, while a report from The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration stated they were “tearing British families apart”.
Immigration barristers Kings Court Chambers say they have received over 3,000 calls relating to the new rules in the past 12 months. Ruth Grove-White, policy director for the Migrants Right Network, is “encouraged” by the widespread opposition across parliament.
Having lived in the UK for three years after their marriage, Guy and Stacey moved to America before deciding to return to England in time for their son to start a British education. But Stacey – a US citizen – is now unable to join her family in the UK until British born Guy has been earning the minimum income threshold for six months.
Speaking to The Independent, Guy, who managed to find a job but is now trying to save the additional £850 application fee, said: “I don’t know how you’d begin to explain to a five-year-old that these people think your mum shouldn’t be with you because she wasn’t born here. Vincent just thinks Stacey is looking after his toys and packing them up into boxes for him. It’s a white lie but it helps him make sense of what’s going on.”
Their story is echoed by that of James – who is unwilling to use his real name for fear of jeopardising his wife’s pending visa application – who also took his daughter to her first day of school last week as a single parent.
James had been living with his wife in her country of birth, Turkey, but they wanted their children to start school in the UK. Aware of the rules, they made the painful decision to split the family. Two weeks ago James was joined by his four-year-old daughter so that she could begin year one, while his wife and three-year-old son remain in Turkey.