The British government yesterday announced a major overhaul of family migration policy which will help stop foreign criminals hiding behind human rights laws to avoid deportation and ensure that only migrants who can support themselves financially may establish their family life in the UK.
Issuing a statement, the British High Commission stated that the changes are intended to increase integration, tackle abuse of family migration and reduce pressure on public services. They are part of the government’s programme of reforming UK migration policy and follow wide consultation and expert advice. Most of these changes will come into force from 9 July 2012.
New UK immigration rules will mean deportation should become the normal consequence for anyone receiving a custodial sentence of at least 12 months. For criminals jailed for more than four years, the public interest in removal will outweigh the right to private and family life in all but the most exceptional circumstances.
The key changes announced also include:
• a minimum income of £18,600 for those who wish to sponsor the settlement of a non-EU spouse or partner in the UK. This level is based on advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), and is calculated as the level at which a couple generally ceases to be able to access income-related benefits. Higher income requirements will apply to dependent children: £22,400 for one child and an additional £2,400 for each further child;
• increasing the minimum probationary period from two years to five years before non-EU spouses and partners can apply for settlement, in order to better determine the genuineness of the relationship and to deter sham marriages;
• requiring a couple that has been living together overseas for at least four years to complete a five-year probationary period before settlement is granted. This alters the existing arrangement whereby a migrant partner in these circumstances has been able to obtain immediate settlement in the UK;
• allowing non-EU adult and elderly dependent relatives to settle in the UK only where they can demonstrate that, as a result of age, illness or disability, they require long-term personal care that can only be provided in the UK by their relative and without recourse to public funds, and requiring them to apply from overseas;
• from October 2013, requiring applicants for settlement to pass the Life in the UK test and present an English language speaking and listening qualification at intermediate level (B1 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) or above, unless they are exempt.