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Migrants told to rely on ‘investments and cash savings’ to meet visa requirements during lockdown

Home Office minister’s remarks prompt outrage from campaigners, who say it is ‘absurd’ to assume people have enough savings to meet £18,600 annual income requirement if they’ve lost their jobs

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 09 May 2020 13:34 BST
Lynett Alptekin and Turkish national Hnur are unlikely to be granted a spousal visa in 2020, because loss of income caused by coronavirus means they won’t meet the minimum income requirement
Lynett Alptekin and Turkish national Hnur are unlikely to be granted a spousal visa in 2020, because loss of income caused by coronavirus means they won’t meet the minimum income requirement

The Home Office has prompted outrage after claiming migrant workers in the UK can rely on their “investments and cash savings” to meet income requirements if they have lost their jobs during the coronavirus lockdown.

Charities have warned job losses during the pandemic could risk thousands of families being torn apart because they no longer meet the minimum income requirement for spouse visas, which stipulates that the applicant and their partner must have joint earnings of £18,600 per annum.

When asked in a written parliamentary question whether the department had considered suspending the policy during the Covid-19 outbreak, immigration minister Kevin Foster said couples who had lost their jobs could still meet the income requirement in “a number of ways”.

He added: “For example, income from the couple’s investments, property rental or pension may also be taken into account, together with their cash savings.”

The remark has sparked anger among campaigners, who claim it is “absurd” for the Home Office to assume that people have enough savings to meet the income requirement if they’ve lost their jobs, saying this is “asking the impossible”.

Lynett Alptekin, 38, married her Turkish husband Hnur, 31, in September last year, and they had planned to apply for our spousal visa this year. She is on a six-month fixed term contract with an accountancy firm that was going to be extended in July, but she said this was now “extremely unlikely” due to the lockdown.

With Mr Alptekin currently without work in Turkey because he is a hairdresser, Ms Alptekin said they will be unable to meet the minimum income requirement if she loses her job.

She said of Mr Foster’s response: “It’s a very dismissive attitude from the government. I’d be very happy if we had enough savings sat in the bank. I don’t know a lot of people who do.

“After fighting so hard to be together, we now feel further away from each other and our dreams for our future than ever before. We’d love to start a family together, but now have no idea when we’ll be in a position to even live in the same country as each other. We FaceTime everyday but this is not how either of us expected to spend our married life together.”

Caroline Coombs, co-founder of Reunite Families UK, said: “The rules by their very nature affect those with less income and so what savings and investments are they expected to access?

“Our members have been working hard to try and meet the already challenging minimum income requirement but have now — through no fault of their own — been thrown into huge financial and visa uncertainty. These are people in loving relationships who are, like a lot of people right now, trying to keep their heads above water. This is not helping our families at all, it’s asking the impossible.”

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants echoed her remarks, saying: “This is absurd. How much do the government think most people have in savings? Let alone people forced to spend thousands on visa applications.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “These are unprecedented times and we have already introduced measures to support people with their immigration status, including automatic extensions of visas and modifying immigration requirements to ensure people are not unduly affected by circumstances beyond their control.

“The minimum income requirement for family migration prevents burdens being placed on the taxpayer, but we are keeping family immigration requirements under review and will make adjustments where appropriate and necessary.”

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