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“When your life is reduced to numbers, it can be incredibly frustrating”: How the minimum income requirement is keeping this family apart

The #ScrapMIRNow campaign:

The minimum income requirement means sponsors of spouse visas for non-EEA citizens have to earn at least £18,600 plus £3,800 for their first child and £2,400 for each child after.

t is particularly hard for women to sponsor husbands, especially those who care for children or family members, as they are many have into part time work and struggle to meet the MIR as a result. N No family should be kept apart because of how much they earn, especially when the odds seem so significantly stacked against them.

That is why JCWI, Families Together, Reunite Families UK and IOHR are just some of the organisations calling for MPs to scrap the minimum income requirement (MIR) in the upcoming Immigration Bill, adding their voice to the thousands of individuals directly affected by the MIR across the UK.

At the bottom of this article you will find a link which will allow you to email your MP asking them to scrap the unjust minimum income requirement.

About the Author:

Rebecca is an assistant teacher at a school in Leeds and has been classed as a key worker throughout the pandemic. Despite the fact that the Government ‘values’ her contribution to society so highly, they are simultaneously denying Rebecca’s husband the right to join her and their son in the UK because she earns less than the MIR.

Rebecca has very kindly written the following guest blog for IOHR about what affect the MIR has had on her and her family:

Family is at the heart of our lives from the day we are born. Whether we love them or hate them, so much of our identity is built around families and the home. We are told that marriage and children are foundations of society. We can be judged on how successful our family life is or isn’t. So how can something that is a fundamental human right be denied from people purely because of where they were born?

For many of us, human rights violations seem like a distant occurrence, something you see on the news or when you’re scrolling through Twitter. It’s not something you’d expect to see happening to your neighbour or colleague. It’s certainly not something I expected to find myself living through.

I met my husband Chuck back in 2014. We were two strangers, both away from home, who fell in love. No different really from any other love story – they all begin with two strangers.

There’s something special about two strangers entering the same space, not knowing what they have sparked in their futures.

For me and Chuck, who is originally from the Philippines, our chance meeting would change our lives. We lived happily together in China, our relationship growing stronger by the day. When we discovered I was pregnant, we were overjoyed. 9 months later, our son Alex was born. He was the perfect mixture of the two of us. But as Alex grew, we noticed he had developmental delays – when he still couldn’t speak by the age of three, we became really concerned. We began to look to the future and the changes we’d need to make in order to provide Alex with the best possible start in life, and make sure he had the care and support he needed to be able to live an independent life one day.

We decided that moving back to the UK would be our best chance of doing this.

I had to come back alone, because Home Office rules mean that I’d have to have been earning a salary of at least £18,600 for six months before I could sponsor my husband’s visa, because he happens to have been born outside Europe.

It was always going to be tough, but we knew it would be worth it. That was 2 years ago. I haven’t seen my husband in all that time, and our son hasn’t been able to hug his dad, because meeting that income requirement has proved impossible and even having Chuck visit proves expensive and impractical. I got a job as a teaching assistant, supporting children with special needs to get a good education at a mainstream school. It’s a tough job, but I love it. But I couldn’t find a way to work enough hours, whilst also having to look after our son alone. If we’d had his dad here, he would have been able to work to support us and help look after Alex, so I could work more hours too. As it is, I’m completely stuck. My husband is thousands of miles away from us, and our son is growing up without him.

Leaving England is not an option as it would deny Alex the level of care needed to give him the best opportunities in life. Anyway, England is our home and staying here should not cost Alex the opportunity to grow up with his father. I feel I’ve been forced into single parenthood and can’t earn enough to bring my family together.

I know I’m far from the only one. Over 40% of the UK population earns less than £18,600 a year. Some 80% of women in part-time work also wouldn’t be able to meet the requirement.

Every day, you read new stories of the families that have been split up, or forced to leave the UK in order to be together.

Some slither of hope might be provided through the introduction by the UK Home office of a fee waiver, which were recently made ‘available’ to non-UK citizens to apply for. However, two days in and it has already left me wanting to pull my hair out.

I searched and searched for the forms online with no luck before I emailed my solicitor asking if they could email them to me. My solicitor searched and searched with no luck and had to email the Home Office directly. Only after two days of non-stop work did I finally have the forms needed just to begin the fee waiver application.

The reality is, the Home Office tends to set the bar very high for any such waivers. The fact that the form itself is so hard to access, suggests that they are offering to waive the MIR begrudgingly and that they will push back against it happening in practice.

Regardless of whether our application process is successful, it is certainly not going to be a solution for every one of the thousands of people suffering at the hands of the minimum income requirement. The only way to completely solve this problem is to scrap the requirement entirely.
What’s mind-boggling about this is that the government has since 2012 – when the income rule came into force – implemented a system that completely tramples our right to a family life, a fundamental human right enshrined in Article 8 of the ECHR, as well as countless other instruments of international and domestic law. And yet, this denial of rights is seen as proportionate, since it meets the “legitimate aim” of “safeguarding the economic well-being of the UK.”

But there’s no evidence that it even does this – if my husband were able to join his family here, he wouldn’t even be allowed to access public funds, and would be working to support his family, sharing the childcare and contributing in myriad ways to our family, our local community and the country at large.

When your life is reduced to numbers, it can be incredibly frustrating. We are all far more than a bank balance or a payslip. It’s time the government recognised that.

The International Observatory of Human Rights is proud to be supporting the #ScrapMIRNow campaign. Head over to our friends at JCWI to write to your MP asking them to scrap the unjust minimum income requirement.

With your help, families such as Rebecca’s can be reunited:

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