UK spouse visa applicants 'never visited Britain'

15 Sep 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

An examination has discovered that the majority of UK spouse visa applicants have never visited the UK before immigrating.

Conducted by the Home Office, the study into files from 2009 discovered that 67 per cent of UK spouse visa migrants for that year were coming to the country for the first time.

The figures also showed that 20 per cent of a sample of sponsors of applicants were either unemployed or were on an income below that of the national minimum wage, while 37 per cent of sponsors from the sample were living with family members of friends.

UK immigration minister Damian Green noted that the family migration route is full of "sensitive issues" which, he noted, have been ignored for too long.

"We want a system that lets everyone know where they stand and what their responsibilities are. If your marriage is not genuine, if you have no interest in this country and its way of life, if you are coming here to live off benefits, don't come in the first place," added Mr Green.

Among the reforms being discussed are plans to more clearly define what constitutes a genuine marriage for the purposes of the immigration rules in a bid to help eliminate sham and forced marriages. Furthermore, the government is considering the introduction of a minimum income threshold for sponsors of family migrants to try and make sure they are supported upon arrival.

Spouse visa applicants in particular could well see the probationary period before which they are able to apple for settlement increase from two years to five years. This is another move designed to tackle sham weddings and test the "genuineness" of relationships before settlement is granted.

Family migration accounted for around 18 per cent of all non-European Union immigration to the UK in 2010, with 48,900 visas granted to spouses, partners and dependants of British citizens and people with permanent residence in this country.