UKLGIG, along with 22 other organisations, wrote to the Home Secretary Priti Patel on 8 April 2020. We asked her to take urgent action to protect families at risk of being split up because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the restrictions that have been put in place to save lives during the pandemic, many people will have lost their jobs or experienced a significant drop in their income. For people in the UK on a spouse visa, this will mean the additional worry about their families being split up, because they can no longer meet the Home Office’s strict to extend their visa. Many will also be put at greater risk of falling ill, because they feel forced to continue going out to work when it isn’t safe to, just to stop their income from falling below the threshold and keep their family together.
Families belong together. It isn’t fair, or safe, for families to have to worry about meeting these visa requirements in the midst of a pandemic.
We are calling on Priti Patel to act now to protect families in this situation. You can read our urgent joint letter below.
8 April 2020
Dear Home Secretary,
Re: Economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for families in the UK
We’re pleased to see that the Government has taken swift action to offset the economic impacts of the pandemic, including loss of hours and loss of work altogether, for families across the UK. However, we the undersigned remain extremely concerned about the economic impact of the pandemic for people seeking to remain in the UK as the partner or spouse of a British citizen (or settled resident).
The most recent advice from the Home Office, last updated on 3 April 2020, notes that people already in the UK with limited leave to remain can still apply online for further leave, but must meet the requirements of the route under which they are applying. For people in the UK as the spouse or partner of a British citizen (or settled resident), this will mean having to meet the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR). Applicant and sponsor will have to prove that they have jointly earned a salary of at least £18,600 per annum, during either the six- or twelve-month period immediately prior to their date of application.
For many couples and families, loss of work, a fall in the amount of hours contracted by employers or the need to access Statutory Sick Pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic will mean it is impossible to meet the MIR. For example, a couple who have been together in the UK for 2 years and are applying for a second spouse/partner visa (FLR(M)) will have to earn at least £1,550 a month in order to meet the MIR. However, if both partners fall ill or need to self-isolate, and therefore receive Statutory Sick Pay, their joint monthly income would fall to £766.80, far below the financial threshold needed in order to apply for further leave to remain in the UK as a family unit. Likewise, many who are furloughed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will end up falling below the threshold due to the 20% drop in pay they will experience.
For some, concerns about having to meet the MIR will mean that members of the family may continue to go out and work when it is not safe to do so, or when they should be following Government advice to self-isolate, as they are worried about their monthly income level dropping below the threshold. The potential public health implications of this are significant, at a time when we are being encouraged to stay at home and observe social distancing regulations as much as possible.
Families dealing with the economic impact of COVID-19 and doing their best to follow Government advice on social distancing should not have to worry that their future in the UK is at risk because of the pandemic. Nor should applicants and their partners feel forced to continue to work when it is unsafe to do so, because of concerns about being able to satisfy the financial requirements.
Given the extremely uncertain situation, and the emotional distress for people unsure of whether they will be able to continue their family life together in the UK due to changes in their financial situation beyond their control, we ask that you treat this as a matter of urgency and suspend the MIR for FLR(M) and SET(M) applications until further notice.
We look forward to your response.
|Ali Harris||Chief Executive||Equally Ours|
|Caroline Coombs and Jane Yilmaz||Co-founders||Reunite Families UK|
|Daisy Jacobs||Director||Routes Collective|
|Dr Edie Friedman||Executive Director||The Jewish Council for Racial Equality|
|Fiona Godfrey||Co-Chair||British in Europe|
|Fizza Qureshi||CEO||Migrants’ Rights Network|
|Indre Lechtimiakyte||Immigration Advisor||Samphire|
|Joanne MacInnes||Director||West London Welcome Centre for Refugees and Migrants|
|Josh Hallam||Field Manager||Help Refugees|
|Julie Bishop||Director||Law Centres Network|
|Leila Zadeh||Executive Director||UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group|
|Lisa Matthews||Co-ordinator||Right to Remain|
|Maike Bohn||Co-founder||The 3Million|
|Nazek Ramadan||Director||Migrant Voice|
|Neli Montes de Oca||Co-ordinator||Refugee Support Devon|
|Omar Khan||Director||Runnymede Trust|
|Roy Rickhuss CBE||General Secretary||Community Union|
|Sally Daghlian OBE||CEO||Praxis|
|Satbir Singh||Chief Executive||The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants|
|Sian Summer-Rees||Chief Officer||City of Sanctuary UK|
|Sonia Lenegan||Legal Director||ILPA|
|Sunder Katwala||Director||British Future|
|Toni Soni||Director||Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre|