Thousands of UK families forced to live apart due to visa rules

A UK Labour MP has called for income requirements for marriage visas to be reviewed, after being contacted by two families who are being forced to live apart under the current scheme.

Katy Clark, who is MP for North Ayrshire has criticised the current system, which requires that if the husband or wife of a British citizen or permanent resident is from outside the European Economic Area, then the UK resident's income must exceed £18,600 for their overseas spouse or partner to come and live in the UK. If there are children involved then this figure is even higher, and in most cases the income of the foreign spouse or partner is not taken into consideration.

These changes were introduced in July 2012 as a method of ensuring families are financially self-sufficient and so wouldn't have to rely on state benefits at the expense of the UK taxpayer. Katy Clark argues that these changes have ripped families apart.

Clark has submitted a motion to Parliament, calling for marriage visa rules to be reviewed, however she believes the chances of success are slim in the current anti-immigration climate. Despite this, she has support from the Archbishop of Westminster, and the Children's Commissioner, who have previously been outspoken critics of these visa rules. The Labour party opposed these changes when they were debated in Parliament back in 2012, but the changes went through anyway.

Clark has put forward the case of two families from her local constituency who are affected by these rules, in the hope that this will strengthen her argument.

The first is Phillip and Kyoto Malloy, who met and married while Mr Malloy was teaching English in Japan. Mr Malloy then returned to the UK with his wife. While in the UK they had their first child. When Mrs Malloy's visa expired in September 2013 she was forced to return to Japan, along with their young son, as the couple no longer met the income requirements for a marriage visa.

Mr Malloy is now struggling to find work which has a high enough salary for his wife and son to qualify for a UK visa; and due to the cost involved for travel to Japan means he rarely sees his wife and son.

The second family is Mr and Mrs Briggs, who met in New Zealand after Mrs Briggs moved there for work. They married, and settled down happily with successful careers, until Mrs Briggs decided she needed to be closer to family in the UK. The couple decided to embark on some travelling before their return to the UK, however unbeknown to them, this break in income meant that Mr Briggs would no longer qualify for a UK visa. This was despite both Mr and Mrs Briggs having a steady income beforehand. They are currently in the Netherlands where they are now trying to find employment.

Clark argues that these examples are only the tip of the iceberg – there are currently thousands of families who are unable to be together in the UK.