UK: Reforming family migration to promote better integration

The Immigration Minister Damian Green has reaffirmed the importance of tackling abuse of the family migration route, and promoting better community integration for those who come to live permanently in the UK.

In a speech at the Centre for Policy Studies on the 15 September, the Minister highlighted research that supports the government’s proposals on family migration. The proposals which are currently being consulted on, will prevent the family route being used to bypass our immigration laws, while welcoming those who want to make a life here with their family and contribute to their local community.

Reports on family migration to the UK show:
two-thirds of a sample of those granted a marriage visa in 2009 had never visited the UK before deciding to move here permanently; the proportion of people entering on family visas who settle here permanently varies hugely by nationality – of the family migrants granted a visa in 2004, 8 out of 10 from Bangladesh and Pakistan had settled here permanently within 5 years, compared with just 10 per cent of Australians; 20 per cent of a sample of sponsors of marriage visa applicants were either unemployed or had an income below the national minimum wage; 37 per cent of sponsors from the sample were living with family members or friends; and in 2009-10, the Department for Work and Pensions spent £2.6 million on telephone interpreting services and nearly £400,000 on document translation. Immigration Minister Damian Green said:
‘These are sensitive issues which have been ignored for far too long but ones we are determined to tackle.

‘We want a system that lets everyone know where they stand and what their responsibilities are. If your marriage is not genuine, if you have no interest in this country and its way of life, if you are coming here to live off benefits, don’t come in the first place.

‘That is why our focus is on delivering better family migration – better for migrants, for communities and for the UK as a whole.’
Plans to reform family migration are outlined in an ongoing consultation which includes proposals to:
– define more clearly what constitutes a genuine marriage for the purposes of the immigration rules to help identify sham and forced marriages;
– introduce a minimum income threshold for those sponsoring family migrants to ensure they are supported at a level that helps integration;
– extend the probationary period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement in the UK from 2 years to 5 years to test the genuineness of relationships and to encourage integration into British life before settlement is granted; and
– require spouses, partners and adult dependants aged under 65 applying for settlement to be able to demonstrate that they can understand everyday English.

In 2010, family migration accounted for around 18 per cent of all non-EU immigration to the UK. In 2010, 48,900 visas were granted to spouses, partners and dependants of British citizens and those with permanent residence in the UK.

Early findings from the consultation launched in July 2011 show broad public support for many of the changes the government has proposed. The great majority back the proposed requirement that spouses and partners must have to understand everyday English before being allowed to settle here permanently.