Focus on migration Part 1 – Visa Rule Changes

It is a sure sign of an incumbent government in desperate straits that they turn towards anti-migration policies come election time – and so we see the deeply damaging tactic once again from the Conservatives with their recently announced migration policies. I have faith that the British public will not fall for it. In this article I will focus on the changes to the visa rules recently announced by Cleverley. In future articles I hope to discuss developments with the asylum and Rwanda policy.

The increased family visa income requirement

In April 2023, the median full-time UK income was £34,963 (ONS). The new income threshold for family visa is £38,700. This means that more than half of hard-working UK individuals would not be able to bring their loved ones to live together in the UK. I suppose the government is saying one of two things with this announcement. Either one should be punished for failing to display the proper affection for Britannia, having fallen in love with a foreigner or if you are not an upper management or finance type working in London, then you don’t deserve to live together with your loved ones.  Or thirdly, you should emigrate from the UK to live with your family, which ironically will further increase the net migration figure. This is an intolerable attack on the private lives of all but the highest-earners. 

The increased work visa income requirement

Under the existing rules, foreign workers already need to be paid at least the domestic labour market’s “going rate” for their respective profession, so the rhetoric of undercutting the labour market is widely off the mark, and in fact contradicts the Home Office’s own statement that the going rates, mostly recently updated in April 2023, were set to “ensures migrant labour is not being used to undercut the domestic labour” (Home Office). Under the new announced rules, the new salary requirement of £38,700 is arbitrary and will do nothing to help grow our economy, or help businesses to recruit the workers they need. For context, out of the 225 eligible occupations (Immigration Rules), I count only 15 occupations, whose going rates will exceed the new threshold. Perhaps the government has laid these rules, coming into effect next Spring, with the expectation that wages will grow by over 50% in the meantime? That would be a welcoming development, but I am afraid one even Santa couldn’t deliver with all the milk and cookies in the world. 

In my city of Brighton & Hove, the changes are particularly devastating, as the hospitality industry forms one of the backbones of the local economy. Indeed, the market rates for crucial occupations such as chefs and catering managers will not meet the new general threshold. These are occupations in which industry bodies have reported for several years now severe domestic labour shortages.

The government further has failed to publish what will happen to family visa and skilled worker visa holders who are already here, when it comes time for their visa renewals. Will their renewal applications be rejected and they be deported, for failing to meet the new income threshold? This disgraceful administrative incompetence is already causing untold anxiety amongst migrants, who are everyday making substantial contributions to their adopted communities.

Finally, the government’s continued language of migrants “abusing” the system and lawyers being “dodgy” is deplorable and must be condemned. Visas are granted within the proviso of the immigration rules. Is you obtaining planning permission with the assistance of an architect abusing the planning system? Is your conveyancer “dodgy” for working hard to ensure that your property rights are correctly recorded in the Land Registry when you purchase a property? It’s only because migrants are voteless and perceived as voiceless that the government even dares to adopt such a tactic. The tactic must be called out and combatted.

* Michael Wang lives in Brighton and Hove. He’s on the executive for the local party and council for LD4SOS. Professionally he is an immigration law practitioner.

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  • I am devastated to say the least by these new changes to visa rules.

    My life took a major turn of events last year and i separated from my Husband of 25 years.
    I never thought I would find love again, but low and behold I met my soul mate who happens to be from Ghana….

    It cost us a small fortune with the help of my family for him to come to the UK as it is ,on a student visa, it was the only legal way for me to bring him into the country.

    life is a struggle as it is, as he is only allowed to work a palatable 20 hours a week on his student visa, which makes it impossible for him to earn enough to pay next years fees…

    It was always our intention to get married at our first opportunity, but now even that looks like it might be impossible if these changes to family income rules come into effect and we will not be eligible.

    our only option would be to go to Ghana where we both face persecution, will not be able to live openly and freely and face untold dangers….

    Just when I thought my life was about to move forward again, after many unhappy years along comes this government to take another hammer blow ……

  • matt – so sorry to hear this, thank you for sharing this with us

  • I’d like to see the Lib Dems standing up for the rights of Britons to marry who they choose, the right to live in UK with their spouse and children, and the right of British children to have both parents living with them rather than being split by a financial cap.

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