Hundreds of Pakistani families flew back to Pakistan as they were compelled to plead and complete the paperwork before the imposition of tougher immigration laws. Leading immigration lawyers have seen applications for spouse visas treble in the past week due to government’s deadline that ended on Monday.
The controversial new laws, which have been slammed by migrant groups and lawyers, mean a Briton has to earn a minimum £18,600 to bring his/her overseas partner into the UK. From July 9, if a foreign-born spouse already has children, their British partner has to earn £22,400 or more depending on how many children they have. Spouses from overseas also have to pass the ‘life in the UK test’ and their probation period will be extended from two to five years.
A leading lawyer, Syed Rashid Masood, told our sources, “A lot of people who were planning to get married later on have already gone to India and Pakistan to do so, gave up their big budget wedding to get married in a simple ceremony so they can apply. In the rush, people tried to get their overseas spouses to clear the ESOL or IELTS in a record-breaking time and are also collecting their paperwork with great speed. To suddenly introduce a measure like this is unfair of the British government. People have been given less than a month to get married and apply for their spouses.”
If a person is earning £15,000, they will now have to show at least £25,000 in savings, which must have been in their accounts for six months. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, a lobby group, has said the new laws could affect about 20,000 families in Britain.
One person who rushed to beat the deadline was Raheela, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. She travelled to Pakistan to make an application for her spouse. Raheela told our sources, “I have spent over £20,000 to make arrangements for travel, emergency paperwork and fees. Let’s hope the review of legislation is made, otherwise marriage as an institution is in jeopardy as far as Asian Brits are concerned. There’s not a lot of compatible matches here but sponsoring [spouse] successfully is going to be like winning a lottery.”
Reena Saini, one of the top immigration lawyers in Britain, said, “I have dealt with dozens of queries where people were stressed to invite their spouse and were worried that post July 9 they may not meet the threshold. I have dealt with around a dozen applications to make an emergency application, where people were stressed to invite their spouses and were worried that post July 9 they may not meet the threshold. People are taking loans, cancelling holidays, arranging language [tests] and fees for submission of their application.”
Pakistan Forum Chairman Raja Javed Iqbal said, “We foresee a big impact on family life in Britain for Pakistani community. It will have a disproportionate affect on poorer families. It will split families until they can join them. Unless they have a family business which can pay them more, they don’t have control on the climate, so families can’t put pressure on them to earn more.”
British Home Secretary Theresa May has said that the family visa laws will save taxpayers £1.5 billion in 10 years and cut the number of visas issued by around a third to 18,500 a year.