LONDON: New immigration rules affecting marriage from overseas came into effect on Monday and it was clear that Pakistanis be the community hardest hit by these heavy-handed laws.
Every year, around 40,000 people come to the UK on marriages or spouse visas. The number of British Pakistanis going to Pakistan to get married has been increasing as the community here retains strong ties back home. Most of the spouses – men and women - from Pakistan come to the UK from Mirpur and Kotli districts in Azad Kashmir, followed by spouses from the Punjab province.
Of the average 40,000 who enter into the UK every year, the number of spouses coming from India tops every other nationality, followed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Pakistani communities live in the most deprived areas, have the highest number of unemployment in some areas and many of them work in sectors where the salaries are so low that they will not enable them to meet the new Home Office requirements.
The key changes in the immigration rules set minimum income threshold at £18,600 for those who wish to sponsor the settlement of a spouse or partner in the UK. A higher threshold will be required for the additional sponsorship of migrant children under the age of 18: £22,400 for one child and an additional £2,400 for each further child sponsored before the migrant parent reaches settlement.
The new rules will take into account £16,000 and above for the sponsor from the UK but in certain cases savings in excess of £90,000 may be required. In a dreadful move, for entry clearance purposes, only the income of the UK partner will be taken into account and it will not matter how much the person in Pakistan is making from his/her
businesses or jobs.
The minimum probationary period has been increased from two years to five years before non-EEA (European Economic Area) spouses and partners can apply for settlement. The migrant spouses will be required to complete a five-year probationary period in the UK for settlement and it will not be considered if they have spent a few years together overseas.
A British national coming back to the UK and wanting to bring over a non-EEA wife and children will need to have a job or a “firm verifiable” job offer in place before consider applying for a visa for them.
From October this year, all applicants for settlement will have to pass the Life in the UK test in addition to an English language qualification at B1 level or above.
Speaking to The News, an immigration expert said the new rules are onerous and will not help an ailing UK economy.
Fariha Butt, a partner at Saracens Solicitors, told The News that the changes brought in by the Home Secretary are aimed at restricting net migration to Britain from 250,000 to "tens of thousands" but as a result of these new rules hundreds of British citizens will effectively be forced into exile from their own country for having a relationship with a non-European Economic Area national.
“As a result British Pakistanis, who number approximately more than a million in the UK, will be one of the hardest hit communities because of the number of people who go ‘back home’ to get married. Those who are to be married and those already married may now find it harder to marry a Pakistani national or anyone from outside the EEA or bring any dependents here to live together in the UK as a family unless they
satisfy the new rules”.
A Home Office spokesperson yesterday refused to answer questions on the adverse affects to migrant communities but referred to the statement of Home Secretary Theresa May in which she has stated that “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.
“To play a full part in British life, family migrants must be able to integrate – that means they must speak our language and pay their way. This is fair to applicants, but also fair to the public.”