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UK visa rules breaking families apart: MPs

June 14, 2013 15:54 IST

VisaUK's new stringent immigration policies are forcing many professionals, including those from India, to leave the country to take care of their ageing parents, British MPs have said in a new report.

Restrictions on family migration were introduced by Home Office ministers as part of the drive to reduce net migration to Britain.

Under the new rules, a British citizen who wants to bring in their spouse or dependent from India or any other country outside the 30-member European Economic Area has to earn a minimum 18,600 British pounds a year.

The requirement rises to 22,400 British pounds to sponsor a child and 2,400 British pounds for every additional child.

Some UK sponsors were now considering leaving the UK, or had already done so, in order to care for their elderly relative overseas121.

A member of the medical profession in Scotland reported that a number of his colleagues were reconsidering their employment and were seeking to move their families (including British children) to India in order to look after elderly dependent relatives, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on migration said in its report.

The group concluded that the rules may have unintended consequences.

These include stopping high-earning non-EU spouses from living in Britain and supporting their families, as well as impacting on British citizens who work full-time but who do not earn above the minimum threshold.

"We found that, in today's internationally connected world, British citizens who are seeking to build a family with a non-EEA national -- including from the USA and from Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Pakistan and India -- are being prevented indefinitely from living together in their own country", the report said.

India forms 10 per cent of the total applications for immigration to the UK. Declines were shown across all of the top 20 nationalities for family visas, with the United States seeing the largest fall (-935), followed by Nepal (-678) and India (-605), Home Office data issued in May 2013 showed.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Baroness Sally Hamwee, who chaired the inquiry, said it had also shown that a previous route under which elderly relatives, including grandparents, were cared for in Britain by their families had now all but closed.

"We were struck by the evidence showing just how many British people have been kept apart from partners, children and elderly relatives.

“These rules are causing anguish for families and, counter to their original objectives, may actually be costing the public purse," she said.

The report shows that only one elderly dependent relative visa was granted between July and October last year.

The dossier was drawn from submissions by 175 individual families affected by the rule.

A Home Office spokesperson said the family rules had been designed to make sure that those coming to the UK would not become a burden on the taxpayer and would be well enough supported to integrate effectively.

"High-value migrants would not be refused because their British spouse or partner was not employed.

"They can meet the income threshold by having cash savings of 62,500 British pounds or through their own private income, for example from investments.

"We have also introduced greater flexibility for those holding investments to liquidate them into cash in order to meet the rules," he added.

A Home Office impact assessment of the new rules estimated that up to 17,800 fewer family visas from outside the European economic area would be issued each year as a result of the income threshold rule.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she would consider the findings of the new report, but on the minimum earnings threshold for British sponsors, she said "it is right for the government to tighten up".

Aditi Khanna in London
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