Families are for the wealthy?

By Nabeelah Jaffer

Linda married her husband Stuart in June this year, after travelling to the UK just two weeks before that. The marriage was the culmination of a 3-year long distance relationship, but things didn’t fall into place until Stuart found a job as a youth minister just over a month before the wedding. Had Linda and Stuart been forced to postpone their marriage, it may not have been able to take place.

On July 9, the government introduced a minimum income requirement for British citizens wanting to bring over a spouse, to avoid the possibility of their falling into benefits. They must be earning £18,600, with an additional £2,400 per child. It could have been higher – a letter leaked in March showed that Home Secretary Theresa May had tried to persuade the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat coalition partners to accept a minimum threshold of £25,700, prior to her June announcement of the upcoming change (with just a month’s notice for applicants like Linda).

The median annual salary of a UK worker in 2011 was just £21,326.

Other new requirements include a longer waiting period of five rather than two years, before permanent residency can be applied for.

The fiance visa which Linda gained in June is valid for 6 months. It runs out on December 1st, by which time the government should have responded to her application for a marriage visa, which will last for two years and give her permission to work. After two years, she should be able to apply for permanent residency. But under the new rules this too has changed – applicants must now wait for five rather than two years before they can apply.

For those like Linda, it’s a matter of staying patient, and doing the best they can with a difficult situation.

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