"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Wednesday 16 January 2013


“My parents are much older than my wife's and we wanted to be closer to them, so my wife, our son and I could see more of them and help them out in their old age. Not too much to ask, is it...?”

British citizen, Joel, lives in Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire. His MP is Mark Harper, Minister for Immigration.

Joel’s wife is American. They’ve been married for five years, with a four-year-old son, also British. As Joel’s parents are much older than his wife’s parents, they decided to relocate from US to UK: to be closer to Joel’s parents, to spend time them with them, to allow a bond to develop between their son and his grandparents , and to afford his parents the respect they deserve by looking after them in their old age.

All these are noble intentions the government should encourage. Instead, Joel and his family are being penalised.

Ironically, Joel used to work for UK government departments in various locations in the world as an Entry Clearance Officer. So he had sound working knowledge of the immigration rules, having processed thousands of visa applications himself.

However, not having worked in immigration for over two years, it was only when they came to look into making an application for his wife that Joel discovered how drastically the rules had changed.

Note: Two years doesn't seem like a long time until you consider that there have been no fewer than 97 changes to immigration laws since 1994 (read more: http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/68972/gmb_gmb_calls_for_urgent_review_as_changes_to_immigration_laws_cause_confusion_and_harm_families.html ).  Even a former specialist in the field can't keep up!

Previously you had to demonstrate you could 'adequately' maintain and accommodate your spouse. It was a commonsense decision that the Entry Clearance officer could make themselves. Third-party support (for example, from parents and so forth) was perfectly acceptable; there was no statutory minimum income for the sponsor to earn (although it was very loosely based on the level of income support amount for a couple over 18, i.e. £111.45 a week). Also taken into account was the applicant's ability to find employment in the UK and ALL savings were admissible, not just those over £16,000.

The new rules take all powers of discretion away from the Entry Clearance Officer. If you don't meet these very inflexible rules, you get refused. Simple as that.

Joel does not believe, in his extensive UK public sector service and immigration experience, that these rules are lawful, or understood by politicians themselves.

Joel has had excellent jobs in the past, while his American wife has a post-graduate degree (an MBA in Finance), has worked as an investment banker and is currently working for the US government. She is extremely well qualified and not someone who is going to switch countries to claim meagre welfare benefits. Clearly, her chances of getting a job in the UK, with these qualifications, are very good, and indeed she is exactly the kind of candidate we should be seeking to attract (note: the 'brightest and the best' referred to by the former Coalition Immigration Minister : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9047318/Damian-Green-brightest-and-best-immigrants-given-priority.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/01/immigration-damian-green-brightest-best_n_1247486.html ). But that's no longer taken into account.

So, Joel has moved here with their son, and is living with his parents in Gloucestershire. Meanwhile, his wife is on her own in Washington DC. Joel is desperately trying to find a job that will make the required £18,600 a year. That's not a realistic amount to find easily in this area, so he is looking for work in London. But then he faces the problem of who will look after his son and elderly parents.

If his wife were here, then the duties of looking after their child and his parents would be shared. The burden would be halved, and the family would not be torn apart.

The ludicrous nature of this situation and the rule changes mean that, in theory, Joel could earn the required amount but probably end up spending a huge proportion of that on living in London and paying for care for his family. Yet he could find a job paying around £15,000 a year, live with his parents, wife and child and not have the carer expenses to pay for.

And his wife could find gainful employment.

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