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June 11, 2012 8:13 pm
Theresa May has announced new restrictions on family migration that aim to cut the number of people entering the UK to join their partners, parents or children by about a third each year.
The measures, unveiled in parliament on Monday, include a “financial independence” requirement that sets a minimum salary threshold of £18,600 for those who want to bring in a spouse who is from outside the EU. The figure rises to £22,400 for a child, with each additional child adding £2,400 to the threshold.
Ms May’s policies form the last in a series of changes intended to bring down net migration from the current level of 250,000 to the “tens of thousands” by 2015. Following revisions to the rules on economic migrants, students and those wanting to settle in the UK, the latest adjustments are expected to reduce the number of family visas granted by up to 18,500 a year. This will save the UK taxpayer £570m in health costs, £530m in benefit claims and £340m in education costs over the next decade, the Home Office predicts.
Ms May told MPs: “We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.”
But Keith Vaz, a Labour MP and chair of the home affairs committee, hit back at the plan, saying it would disproportionately affect the British Asian community. The Oxford-based Migration Observatory warned that those on low incomes – predominately women, those in their 20s, and those living outside London – would be hardest hit. Scott Blinder, senior researcher at the Observatory added that even if the policy made a sharp reduction to family migration, this still represented only a “small fraction” of the cuts needed to reach the tens of thousands target.
Meanwhile Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, questioned why the government had backed away from an earlier plan of incoming migrants paying a “bond” that could be redeemed against any use of public services.
“It is not clear the best way to protect the taxpayer is to focus solely on the sponsor’s salary,” Ms Cooper said. “For example in the current economic climate, someone on £40,000 today could lose their job next month and then there is no way to protect the taxpayer.”
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