Family migration consultation ‘to promote better integration’

The Immigration Minister Damian Green detailed why he thinks the proposed review of the family migration routes will help achieve 'immigration which is better targeted and fairer' in a speech given on 15 September 2011.

Family migration consultation ‘to promote better integration’

The Immigration Minister Damian Green detailed why he thinks the proposed review of the family migration routes will help achieve ‘immigration which is better targeted and fairer’ in a speech given on 15 September 2011.

Mr Green used his speech to highlight research that supports the government’s current proposals to change family migration. The proposals are currently under public consultation and according to the UKBA are intended to prevent the family route ‘being used to bypass our immigration laws, while welcoming those who want to make a life here with their family and contribute to their local community.’

Mr Green made his comments at the Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank founded by the Conservatives in the 1970’s.

Mr Green brought attention to recent reports on family migration which show:

  • two-thirds of people surveyed who were granted a marriage visa in 2009 had never visited the UK before deciding to move here permanently
  • the proportion of people entering on family visas who settle here permanently varies hugely by nationality - people from Banladesh and Pakistan were much more likely to settle than people from Australia
  • 20 per cent of people surveyed who had sponsored marriage visa applicants were either unemployed or had an income below the national minimum wage
  • 37 per cent of sponsors from the sample were living with family members or friends
  • in 2009-10, the Department for Work and Pensions spent £2.6 million on telephone interpreting services and nearly £400,000 on document translation

Consultation proposals

Against these findings the outlined plans in the consultation are as follows:

  • To ‘define more clearly what constitutes a genuine marriage’ - This will likely require applicants to provide more detailed evidence of their relationship, possibly over a longer period of time.
  • ‘To introduce a minimum income threshold for those sponsoring family migrants’ - This will be intended to reduce the burden on welfare payments. It is uncertain where this threshold will be set, but will likely require sponsors to be financially independent and able to live without public funds.
  • ‘To extend the probationary period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement/ILR from two to five years’ -  As with the increased English language requirements made in the last year, the indication is that preferential treatment for spouses and partners is on the way out.
  • ‘To require spouses, partners and adult dependants aged under 65 applying for settlement to be able to demonstrate that they can understand everyday English’ - It is unclear if this will further increase the language requirements for spouses and partners.

Mr Green’s speech

Mr Green said:

‘These are sensitive issues which have been ignored for far too long but ones we are determined to tackle.

‘We want a system that lets everyone know where they stand and what their responsibilities are. If your marriage is not genuine, if you have no interest in this country and its way of life, if you are coming here to live off benefits, don’t come in the first place.

‘That is why our focus is on delivering better family migration - better for migrants, for communities and for the UK as a whole.’

Mr Green also praised the right-leaning anti-immigration government of Denmark in his speech, saying:

‘We are keen to learn from practice in other European countries. An example is the attachment requirement in Denmark, which requires a couple’s combined attachment to Denmark to be greater than that to any other country. It is argued that this promotes effective integration and provides a further test of the genuineness of a relationship.

‘To meet the attachment requirement, the sponsor of a marriage visa must have resided legally in Denmark for at least 15 years and the applicant must have visited the country at least twice.

‘Such an attachment requirement in the UK would have a big impact. Many family migrants have never visited the UK before they apply for a visa to come here as a spouse or partner.’

It is interesting to note that these comments were made the day before Denmark voted out the right-leaning government responsible for introducing policies such as these.

He also highlighted that in 2010, family migration accounted for around 18 per cent of all non-EU immigration to the UK; 48,900 visas were granted to spouses, partners and dependants of British citizens and those with permanent residence in the UK.

According to the UKBA, ‘early findings from the consultation launched in July 2011 show broad public support for many of the changes the government has proposed’. However, they follow this up with a comment that ‘the great majority back the proposed requirement that spouses and partners must have to understand everyday English before being allowed to settle here permanently’. This does not say that the public approve of the rest of the changes.


How to respond to the family route consultation

Full details of the consultation on family migration can be found on the UKBA website. You can also watch a video of Mr Green talking about the consultation and inviting responses.

You can also respond to the consultation by email to asktheminister@homeoffice.gsi.gov or via Twitter @UKHomeOffice, using the hashtag #asktheminister.


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