Would James Cleverly’s parents have been forced to choose between separating or leaving the UK had they been subject to the new immigration rules the home secretary announced on Monday 4 December?
Many of the millions of people in the UK whose partners or parents were born overseas have been asking themselves a similar question over the past few days.
Cleverly’s decision means that a British citizen who wants their non-UK partner to live with them in Britain will need to earn a salary of at least £38,700 for six months before applying.
Only the Briton’s income counts for the first application and even under the old requirement of £18,600 a year thousands of families were exiled from the UK or had children separated from a parent for months or years.
The home secretary’s father, Philip, was training to become a surveyor when he met Evelyn, who was working as a nurse at Lewisham hospital in south London, some time in the 1960s.
She was born in Sierra Leone and became a teacher before moving to the UK in 1960.
She trained as a nurse, then qualified as a midwife in 1965. The home secretary was born in 1969 and his mother later went on to be a manager at Lewisham hospital’s maternity unit.
For a couple in similar circumstances when the rules come into force in April 2024, there are some potential problems.
A student from Sierra Leone can move to the UK on a student visa for the duration of their course, and then switch to a health and care worker visa or a skilled worker visa.
After five years, they could apply for indefinite leave to remain.
So the nurse would not need to rely on the income of the newly qualified surveyor – so long as she remained in a job.
But if this new couple had a baby and decided that a year of parental leave was not enough, then they may need to apply for a family visa.
Yet a newly qualified surveyor can expect to earn only £25,000 a year, according to the National Careers Service, well below the new threshold.
Someone who earns less than £38,700 may still be able to get a family visa.
They may have enough savings to top up the requirement – someone relying solely on savings used to be able to qualify if they had £62,500, and the new figure has not yet been announced.
Home Office officials may also be able to grant visas in “exceptional circumstances” – although there is no guarantee.
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