The Government's cruel immigration policy is tearing my family apart – and forcing us into exile

I thought as a Briton I had the freedom to marry who I wanted and settle with them in my country. I was wrong

Jonathan Green
Wednesday 22 February 2017 14:47 GMT
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The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Government's minimum income requirements for those bringing in a spouse from outside the EU
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Government's minimum income requirements for those bringing in a spouse from outside the EU (PA)

Critics of the UK’s immigration policy call it “soft-touch Britain”. They say we have “open borders”, but the reality is the opposite. Britain has among the harshest immigration policies in the world, and they are needlessly tearing families apart. A ruling by the UK Supreme Court today confirms this.

Let me tell you about my situation. I’m a Briton born and bred who faithfully paid his tax and has stayed on the right side of the law. A few years ago I met someone from North America who had come to London to study. We fell in love; eventually, we decided to get married.

Only one problem: the UK Home Office. In 2012 the Coalition government made it law that if a Briton marries someone from outside the EU, they have to be earning more than £18,600 a year to settle in the UK, or have £62,500 in savings. My wife’s earnings or potential earnings are not taken into account, only mine.

I earned below that amount but I did not rely on welfare benefits and paid whatever taxes I needed to. For the Home Office, however, that didn’t matter. Unless I earned over that amount or we had a huge amount of savings she couldn’t live Britain with me. I didn’t even know such a law existed until after we got married.

I thought as a Briton I had the freedom to marry who I wanted and settle with them in my country. I was wrong.

The hysteria around immigration is breaking apart law-abiding British families. There are thousands of Britons all over the world forced into exile because they don’t meet the stringent income requirements.

Leighsa, another Briton, met her husband Scott more than 21 years ago when he was stationed in the UK with the US Air Force. They spent 14 years together and had a son in 2002. But the income requirements blocked him from being united with his family. There are hundreds of cases like this documented online.

The Government was taken to the Supreme Court by families who said – rightly – that it violated their human rights and made it much harder for them to marry whomever they wanted. Sadly, the judges ruled the Government was within the law in applying the rule.

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But they also accepted that it had caused hardship for thousands of families and criticised poor application of the rules. In other words, it said the Home Office was needlessly trying to stop families from being united. The application system has been made so confusing and long that applicants are frequently rejected on a small technicality even if they meet the requirements.

All this has been a boon for immigration lawyers who charge an absurd amount of money to help people navigate through the byzantine rules. And working class families who don’t earn much often don’t have access to such professional support.

The Government claims the rule is there to stop the spouses of British citizens becoming a burden on the state, but that is nonsense. An easier way to enforce such a policy would be to prevent spouses from claiming any benefits until they had been in the UK for a set length of time. Instead, these rules simply make it harder for Britons to exercise free choice in deciding who to marry or have children with.

Love recognises no borders: if you meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, and that feeling is reciprocated, you’re not going to throw that relationship away because of one Government’s immigration laws. But my wife and I now have to live out of Britain, away from both our extended families, even though I desperately want to go back home. Many others don’t even have the flexibility to live elsewhere because of their commitments. Imagine the anguish they feel in being separated from their life partners.

When fighting for gay marriage, the former Prime Minister David Cameron once said, “when people’s love is divided by the law, it’s the law that needs to change.” It’s shameless that he and his party didn’t even have the courage of their convictions to stand by that moral principle.

Jonathan Green is a pseudonym. The writer's case is still under consideration by the Home Office. All names have been changed

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