UK spouse visa regulations 'causing anguish'

10 Jun 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Changes to the regulations governing UK spouse visas have brought "anguish" to British families, according to one group of MPs and peers.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has looked at more than 175 cases from families affected by a recent increase in minimum earnings thresholds for UK spouse visa sponsors. They found that the increase had led to people being separated from their partners and children in some cases.

Last year, the government brought in new rules that meant that British citizens must be earning at least £18,600 a year if they want to sponsor their non-European spouse's visa. For families with a child, this raises to £22,400, with a further £2,400 added on for each additional child.

According to the parliamentary group's research, of the cases reviewed, 45 families claimed that their inability to meet the income threshold had led to non-European partners being separated from their children.

One person affected by the changes is Douglas Shillinglaw, from Kent, and his family. Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Shillinglaw explains that his wife is in Lagos, Nigeria, with their five-month-old son and her six-year-old son from another relationship. Meanwhile, Mr Shillinglaw is in Britain struggling to arrange visas for his family due to his self-employed status.

He told the programme: "Self-employed income is different from employed income. I have got enough money to pay my mortgage and bills, and that should be enough.

"And should anything happen to me, I have a family that will take care of them [his wife and children]. My family are wholeheartedly behind what I am doing."

Mark Reckless, Conservative MP on the home affairs select committee, was given the chance to defend the government's position on the programme. He stated: "If you are bringing someone into the country, then you should be expected to support that person without recourse to public expense.

"Over time, it might be possible that the regulations could be adjusted. There will be hard cases and we learn in light of those experiences."