Ariane Burgess, Scottish Green MSP for the Highlands & Islands, has dismissed the Home Secretary’s U-turn on spousal visas as “too little too late” following the announcement made by James Cleverly shortly before Christmas that partially rolled back changes sprung on couples in early December.
Ms Burgess had written to the Home Secretary on the day he announced a delay to his plan to increase the earnings threshold on spousal visas to £38,700.
The minimum income required to sponsor someone for a spouse or partner visa is currently £18,700.
Instead of scrapping the ill-considered policy, the Home Secretary announced that the increase would be staggered with a hike of more than 56% to £29,000 coming in April 2024.
Commenting, Ms Burgess said:
“I am deeply concerned about the adverse impact this ill-thought-out policy will have on couples who wish to build their lives together in the UK but find themselves unable to meet the unrealistic financial criteria.
“One of my constituents has recently shared their dilemma with me, and I believe their situation is representative of the challenges other people in rural areas are likely to face under this policy.
“This constituent is planning to marry someone from outside the UK and will not be able to meet the new income requirement.
“The income threshold exceeds the average income in Scottish rural areas, thereby making it an unrealistic and unattainable goal for most residents in rural and island communities.
“Yet it is precisely these communities most in need of the young, working age population most likely to be affected.
“The implications of this policy extend beyond the immediate devastating impact on couples; it also poses a threat to the skilled workforce available in rural communities.
“The inability of individuals to bring their partners to the UK may result in a loss of valuable talent and expertise, further exacerbating the depopulation challenges faced by rural areas.
“Moreover, this policy contradicts the spirit of compassion and inclusivity that has long been a symbol of this country.
“It restricts the ability of individuals to share their lives with immigrants and contributes to a sense of division within our society.
“Instead of continuing to tinker with this ill-conceived policy – official factsheets have had to be revised twice since the initial announcement on the 4th December – the Home Secretary should carefully consider the long-standing request of the Scottish Government for the devolution of migration policy to enable Scotland to recruit the workers it urgently needs to support key sectors like agriculture, health and social care.”