The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, has called for a rethink on UK spouse visas, claiming that the current rules are leading to families being split apart.
As the most senior Catholic in England and Wales, Nichols' opinion holds some weight on the topic of families and marriage, although he usually keeps out of political matters. The archbishop made an uncharacteristic political intervention, dubbing the government's pursuit of UK immigration targets “inhumane” and adding that the UK spouse visa regulations risk preventing the settlement of foreign spouses of British citizens, which risks splitting up families.
Writing in The Guardian, Nichols particularly criticised the introduction of the minimum earning clause into the UK spouse visa regulations, which requires British citizens looking to sponsor a spouse from outside the EU to be earning at least £18,600.
Nichols wrote: “The government's intention with these new regulations is to cut the number of immigrants from outside of the European Union. But in doing so, is it the government's intention to penalise British citizens? To undermine marriages and to split up families?”
He added that the problem unfairly penalises British citizens since “other EU citizens are free to come and live in the UK with spouses from outside the EU … yet British citizens do not enjoy the same rights”.
The government is still attempting to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands before the next election, but this is far from the first time that its approach has come under question.
A spokesperson from the Home Office told the paper that the changes are “necessary to prevent a family becoming a burden on the taxpayer and to promote integration”.
She added: “Our reforms are working and immigration is falling, while we build a fairer system. We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution. But family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense.”