25 October 2012

Lords debate UK immigration thresholds

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Members of the House of Lords yesterday debated the practicalities of changes to UK immigration policy made earlier this year.

UK immigration

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour) tabled a motion in the House of Lords to debate recent UK immigration changes.

As part of the Government's efforts to reduce net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' by the time of the next General Election, the coalition Government have made several changes to UK visa and immigration policy.

One of the most controversial changes has been the introduction of an income threshold for British citizens and permanent residents who wish to sponsor a partner or spouse to come to the UK.

In order for a foreign national to come to the UK, the British citizen or permanent resident must be earning at least £18,600 or £22,400 if there are children involved.

However, Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour) says that while she 'supports the Government in their efforts to address and manage levels of immigration to this country' the introduction of a threshold does not allow for individual circumstances, unlike the current assessment based policy.

"Of course it is right that if an individual wishes to bring their family to settle here in the UK, they should not that that state will support them," said Baroness Smith.

"That is why it is already a requirement for an individual to demonstrate that they have access to sufficient funds at a level that will put them in a similar position to someone on income support here in the UK, so that they will not seek recourse to benefits.

"Unlike a blanket income threshold, the current position allows authorities to take into account the different ways in which a couple may be able to demonstrate that they can meet that requirement."

Baroness Browning of the Conservatives countered that the average salaries in many of the UK's major cities was significantly higher than the £18,600 threshold while Lord Teverson of the Liberal Democrats said it was 'absolutely wrong for the state to intervene so strongly in deciding whom you are able to marry and live with'.

Lord Taylor of the Conservative and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said the threshold was intended to ensure new migrants did not place an unfair burden on the welfare state.

"Those who wish to establish their family life here must be able to stand on their own feet financially. Family migration needs to be on such a properly sustainable basis, which is in the interests of migrants and of communities in the UK as a whole," said Lord Taylor.

"The previous requirement, for applicants to be maintained adequately... was interpreted by the court as income equivalent to the level of income support, which is around £5,500 a year for a couple. This, frankly, was not an adequate basis for sustainable family migration and good integration outcomes.

"In particular, it provided little assurance that UK-based sponsors and their migrant partner could financially support themselves and any dependants over the long-term."


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