Expat Families Split By Immigration Rules

Almost 5,500 protestors have signed a petition supporting a change in UK law that would allow split families to be reunited.

Changes to UK immigration rules in 2012 allegedly keep 18,000 expat families separated each year by imposing restrictions on British expats bringing spouses and other dependants back to the country from overseas.

The rules mainly affect UK spouses with non-European Union families as freedom of movement rules within the EU do not bar the cross-border movement of citizens.

If the petition stokes up enough ire among expats and reaches 10,000 signatures by March 11, 2016, the government is committed to respond to the protest.

At 100,000 signatures, the matter is automatically placed before Parliament for a debate.

Petition protest

The petition was started by expats on the BritCits web site, who are leading the campaign.

The group is campaigning to change immigration rules that set high bars for entry to the UK.

The rules impose financial demands on expat families –

  • No one earning less than £18,600 a year can come to the UK with a spouse, with formulas for working out income from savings and other sources
  • The income bar is raised to £22,400 if the couple have a child and rises £2,400 for a second child and the same amount each for any additional children
  • The income rule applies to the UK expat only, so families where the non-UK spouse is the high earner fail the test.

The partner also has to pass the UK citizenship test asking questions about the English language and culture.

Bride-to-be refused UK entry

The problem, say expats with non-European spouses, is the rules stop couples coming to settle in the UK and effectively banishes some expats to live overseas or forces them to live apart from their families.

BritCit also claims elderly dependents also have difficulties entering the UK and suggests that only one visa was granted in the first six months after the rules were changed in 2012.

The web site has lots of case studies of expats and their spouses refused entry to the UK.

One couple came to Britain for their wedding. The groom was British and lived in New York while the pregnant bride-to-be was from Trinidad and Tobago. She was stopped and detained on arrival at Gatwick.

The groom was allowed through passport control and she was placed on a flight out of the UK.

The couple were told border control officers suspected she would over stay in the UK because she was due to be married and might have had her child in Britain.

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