UK nationals or settled citizens must earn a minimum of £18,600 if they want to bring their spouse to live with them here. This rises to £22,400 after a child is born and £2,400 for each subsequent child.
The Children’s Commissioner in England previously estimated that there were 15,000 UK children growing up in so-called ‘Skype families’ – whose only contact with a parent abroad was via the online audio and visual app.
The minimum income requirement is having a disproportionately negative impact on people in Scotland, as 41 per cent of UK citizens in Scotland do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse, and 53 per cent do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse and child, according to the Migration Observatory.
This compares to 27 per cent and 34 per cent respectively in London. Nationalist MP Stuart McDonald said: “Rather than being able to spend time with their families and loved ones around the Christmas dinner table, many people with foreign spouses will be forced yet again to spend the festive period communicating with families over Skype. With the continued Brexit chaos there is now also the very real risk that the Tory government, obsessed with nonsensical immigration targets, could simply extend the restrictive income threshold levels to EU family members post-Brexit.
“Not only would that be a continuation of a devastating policy that has split an estimated 15,000 children from their parents, it would be a continuation of its hostile environment that is putting off people from coming to the UK and contributing economically and socially.”
The income requirements apply entirely to the UK citizen and do not take into account the potential earnings of the non-UK spouse, Mr McDonald added. “I have repeatedly pressed the Home Office to ditch these cruel anti-family policies and adopt an evidence based approach that keeps families together, attracts talented workers and helps our economy and businesses grow,” McDonald added.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “To ensure families can support themselves financially, we ask for evidence that applicants looking to sponsor a non-EEA spouse or partner meet a minimum income threshold of £18,600. All cases are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the immigration rules and our policy on exceptional circumstances, and are based on evidence provided by the applicant.”