Tougher rules for ‘family migration’

Close relatives to be denied access to welfare benefits for five years
13th July 2011: With an aim to adopt stringent measures to further cut annual net migration, the UK is all set announce new set of measures. Family members from out of Europe who come to unite with close relatives settled in Britain are expected to be denied access to welfare benefits for up to five years as per the new plan, expected to be detailed on Wednesday.
Home Office ministers regard the grip on family migration as a key part of their drive to bring annual net migration to the UK down to the "tens of thousands, instead of hundreds of thousands" by the time of the next election.

Migrants who wish to settle in UK with their husband or wife will have to wait for five years before they can claim benefits. The increase from the current settlement period of two years is designed to deter sham marriages. The policy paper will also examine ways to scale back the use of ‘family life’rights by criminals.  

The Oxford University-based Migration Observatory suggests that changes to the family migration route are unlikely to reduce annual net migration by more than 8,000 at the most.

The immigration minister, Damian Green, is to declare new measures. The government hopes will ensure that those who come to the UK through the family migration route put together more fully into British society. They are also expected to include a tougher English language test for those applying to come to Britain on a family visa.

Ministers also want to reform article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This will protect the right to family life and currently checks deportation in some cases of close family members, who have been living illegally in Britain.
So far ministers have tried to restrain the flow of skilled workers from outside Europe. They have introduced measures to reduce the number of overseas student visas and to "break the link" between temporary migration and the right to apply to settle permanently in the UK.

But the official figures show there is precious little possibility for reducing annual net migration – which was running at 242,000 in the year to September 2010 – through the family migration route.

 The latest figures show 48,900 family migration visas were given in 2010, of which 40,500 were spouses who were coming for marriage, civil or other partnership purposes, or spouses-to-be. The remaining 8,400 were dependents, including elderly relatives. Most are women from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Decreasing welfare benefits for family members from overseas is likely to have only a limited impact. Relatives already have to wait for two years before they become entitled for welfare benefits. It is contemplated that the change will not have an effect on spouses who enter on spouses’ visas and choose to work and pay national insurance contributions.

. The proposal to look at reworking the wording of "right to family life" is likely to prove difficult and open to human rights challenges.

In advance of consultation, the Migration Observatory said the alterations were limited in their impact because international human rights legislation limits the government’s ability to prevent family unification.

As per the Observatory the Family migration has been an objective for successive UK governments, to the extent that it was now largely limited to the nuclear family. The majority of family migrants were spouses.

 They add the government could attempt to increase the level of financial support that needs to be proved for a family member to be brought to the UK. They could also demand higher levels of proof that the family member will integrate, but these policies could run into legal challenges. Equally, the government could prevent fiancées from being included as family members, but even this would only deliver limited change.


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