The British tax on love

I’m glad to see that the SNP is highlighting an issue which is personally close to me, the UK’s restrictive and harsh immigration rules for spouses and family members. The SNP’s immigration spokesperson Stuart McDonald MP has released a statement criticising the UK’s policy for leaving many families in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK facing a bleak 2018. And after Brexit it’s only likely to get worse.

As regular readers of this blog may know, I’m planning to get married to my American partner and we would like to live our lives together as a couple here in Scotland. Because he just loves rain. Actually this weekend it’s forecast to be -20C in Connecticut, and Glasgow is positivle balmy and tropical in comparison. But him moving here is not going to be easy, thanks to Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, prioritising her political need to sook up to the Daily Mail and score brownie points with the Katie Hopkins of this world over the need of thousands of British citizens, their partners, and their children to live together as families.

Most countries demand that when one of their citizens marries a foreigner who doesn’t have the right of residence that the couple bears the financial responsibility for supporting their new spouse. That’s perfectly reasonable and is designed to prevent people entering the country and immediately becoming a burden on the state. That’s how immigration rules work in the USA or in Spain, to pick two random examples. What they don’t do however, is to set a financial threshold on how much the citizen needs to be earning before they qualify for the “privilege” of living together with their spouse in the citizens’ own country. Only the UK does that, and the threshold is a high one. If you want to marry a foreigner in the UK, first make sure that you are financially one of the better off.

The UK is the only developed nation to put a price on love. If you are a British citizen who wishes to wed someone who doesn’t have the right of residence in the UK, you need to prove to the Home Office that you earn over £18,600 a year before your spouse can apply for leave to remain in the UK. 41% of working people in Scotland don’t earn that much, and so will never qualify. If the couple have a child, that figure rises to £22,400, and the amount goes up by £2,400 a year for each additional child. Effectively, it’s a tax on love.

What the UK doesn’t do, but which both Spain and the USA do, is to take into account the potential earnings of the non-citizen spouse. Spain and the USA both expect people coming into the country not to become a burden on the state, but they acknowledge that people of working age have the potential to earn a wage of their own to contribute to the household income. Only the UK insists that it’s entirely up to the citizen to provide financially for their spouse.

In our case, my partner works in IT and has transferrable skills. One of the main reasons for us choosing for him to live here is precisely because he has a much better chance of finding equivalent employment in Scotland than I do of finding equivalent employment in the USA. Let’s face it, there is a limited demand for ranting about Scottish politics in America. However the Home Office will not consider his earning potential, only mine, despite the fact that he has the prospect of earning considerably more than I can.

The “preventing benefits tourism” excuse given by the Home Office and the right wing British press is a red herring. For starters no one in their right mind seeks to bring a spouse into the UK so that they can trot off to the job centre and be humiliated for £70 a week. The fact is that if you’re in any sort of paid employment for more than 24 hours a week your spouse isn’t going to be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance anyway. Benefits tourism is not prevented by not taking into account the earning potential of a foreign spouse or partner, and in any event it can be prevented by not making them eligible for social security support until after they’ve been in employment for a given period of time. The rule about not taking into account the earning potential of the non-British spouse exists purely in order to placate the editorial writers of the Daily Mail and the Express. It serves no useful purpose in the real world.

My partner and I at least have options, but a large proportion of working people in this country will never earn enough to satisfy Home Office requirements. People who are employed, who are productive, who are making a positive contribution to society and the economy, but the British state denies them the basic human right of living with their loved ones. According to the Children’s Commissioner for England, around 15,000 children in the UK are separated from one of their parents because of the UK’s immigration rules. It’s a national disgrace.

Scotland needs economically productive migrants. Scotland has an ageing population and the country needs people of working age like my partner Peter who have valuable skills which would benefit the Scottish economy. However Scottish immigration policy is determined by a Conservative government in Westminster which isn’t especially interested in Scotland’s demographic needs, or in any of Scotland’s other needs for that matter. It’s only interested in placating the gutter right wing press with its xenophobic headlines.

If you’re rich, if you’re marrying into the Royal family, none of this is a problem. Meghan Markle has no trouble coming to the UK and staying here indefinitely despite the fact that she’s marrying into a family of benefits scroungers. As we saw from the funding strategies of Scotland in Union, the UK works for the benefit of the rich, the powerful, and the well-connected. And after Brexit it’s only going to get worse, because the current inflexible and inhumane rules which apply to non-EU citizens who marry British citizens are likely to apply to EU citizens as well.

It’s another reason for independence. It’s only with independence that Scotland can have an immigration policy that suits Scotland’s needs. We can have a country which works for everyone and not just the rich. Perhaps even more importantly, Scotland can develop an immigration policy that doesn’t cruelly separate families and loved ones, and that doesn’t put a tax on love.

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. You can now access this blog simply by typing into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.

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0 thoughts on “The British tax on love

  1. Pingback: The British tax on love | speymouth

  2. It’s wholly unsatisfactory this immigration policy and anti immigrant rhetoric. I feel your frustration and anger at this craziness.

    I do know someone who has been resident here for a long time now and is more than unsettled by the direction the Tories are heading. This person feels targetted and no bloody wonder. How can a society function as it should in a cohesive way if it’s government is actively seeking to fracture it?

    Nobody can stop who they fall in love with and it should not be punished either. Hang in there Paul as I have the feeing this year may lead to the result you guys seek…

  3. Also factor in the cost of repeated visas, and if you decide to get married, the Government may put a short time limit on things. Recently heard a story, where someone was given six months (make it five, if you fear bureaucratic snail mail issues) to get married or get out.

  4. Going off at a bit of a tangent, but does anyone have access to reliable data concerning Scotland’s supposedly aging population? Anecdotally, I see lots of evidence of younger people leaving Scotland to find employment and lots of anecdotal evidence of older people returning when they retire. Scotland thus carries the costs of education and later life costs but gets no credit via the GERS accounts for the taxes they pay elsewhere during their working lives. When Scotland becomes independent, presumably only those that pay their taxes in Scotland will be able to enjoy pensions, social care etc here so the economics of the union might not reflect the economics of independence.

  5. So why can’t we crowd fund your wages for a year to get you over the threshold? Hey, nobody is asking where Prince Harry’s money is coming from.

    • You can Crowd Fund me if you like Bill lol.
      I can’t get my fiancee into the country as I lost my job recently.
      The sooner we get out of this Disunited Kingdom the better

  6. I had no idea that the Home-Office rules were so xenophobic and sadistic, Paul. What on earth has become of the country of my birth? Independence is, as you say, the only answer. Saor Alba!

  7. This is why we are in Germany, because Germany accepted my Japanese wife a ‘European’ because I was, and also didn’t have a threshold for her entry visa. Now I’m German and the state is not allowed to separate a family, so we can stay together.

    Yet still I get people saying the UK has ‘no border controls’

    In a way we won: I have a good qualification and I’m getting a second now, and my kids have good prospects for qualifications and employment, better than they could in the UK right now at any rate.

    Selfishly though, this is why I want Scotland to be independent, so I can bring my family home…

  8. This is enough to embarrass Ruth Davidson. Why don’t we all send her a missive and fill her in-box with requests of what she intends doing about this farce.

  9. I know that the Westmonster UKOKGov have all the levers of immigration tied up and can shaft Scotland re this anytime, as they are doing by deporting people from Scotland who have been here for years and even some who run busineses and employ people etc.

    As for young people leaving that may still be the case once they have finished their degree free of tuition fees etc, but many are actually moving TO Scotland as well. I have met a lot of English and European nationals very recently, who are making Scotland their home, but sadly the european nationals may not find it easy to stay and some are having to apply for residency several times, it’s a lot of their own, hard earned money going to the UKOK treasury. It’s a disgrace.

    I know of a retired, very well off couple whose grown up kids all live in England, this couple are not just no voters but Brexiters as well. They watch BBC wall to wall. One new son in law is German, and their daughter is not in a secure well paid job, neither is the son in law, and they just had a baby, so no idea what is going on there. When I mentioned that the son in law might be at risk of deportation due to Brexit, the no voting brexiters were horrified and said ‘absolutely not he has been here for years’! When I said, but the UKgov are chucking people out even then, they said they have not heard anything of the sort what rubbish!!

    I didn’t know that a spouse could only stay or come into the UKOK if their wife or husband was basically fairly well off, by some people’s terms. It’s really discriminating against those who are not so well off, but could be working all hours on a low wage, and their incoming partner could be working all hours. What an unequal little britain this really is, not much has really changed in terms of who runs what, who makes the laws and who has the freedom to marry outside of their usual country of residence. The class system is alive and well, and in fact is akin to a caste system if you look at who has choices and certain freedoms, and who is not allowed those choices and freedoms.

    Good luck Paul, and hopefully Scotland can decide these hugely important matters independently soon. UKOK control over immigration could actually ruin Scotland’s economy, and of course tourist industry, as well as universities. But then, we know that is no accident, and is a rope around Scotland’s neck being pulled tighter by UKGov. We must get out of the disgusting narrow minded and hugely constraining, so called union soon as possible.

  10. This is ridiculous , Scots need to wake up, I live in NZ and they standard of living is awesome, great prospects and a welcoming attitude to people, just over 4.5 million and at the arse end of the world, self reliant and in the Black financially as a country. Scotland is currently in the largest single market in the world and part of a 400 million population of Europeans. The Uk is a Festering racist and bankrupt country. Get out of the UK Union. Scotland is a rich land and an innovative hard working people. Don’t listen to the Uk productivity mantra, they are a parasite on the world. They invest in nothing and keep the people in a low wage ,high tax economy. The BBC is a propoganda outlet , talking doom and gloom to make the Scots feel grateful to the UK in their safe society. It’s all BS New Zealand is an example of what happens when you become Independent from the UK.

    • Melvin I too am a Scot living in New Zealand. I agree with everything you say about our quality of life here. I also agree that Scotland needs to get out of the union as soon as it can. WM are robbing the Scots blind, they are made to feel inferior when in actual fact the Scots are superior to the English in many ways.
      You guys are the masters of your own destiny, you just need the confidence to believe in yourselves & be independent from WM. Scotland has more natural resources than we in New Zealand have & we have made it without WM. You can too.

  11. Paul, could you ..
    Take on a part time job to get up to the earnings threshold.
    Bring your partner into Scotland.
    He then sets up as an IT contractor with his own limited company – obviously a very common arrangement.
    His company then employs you …

  12. I think this may be the first time I’ve disagreed with anything substantive on this blog.

    My experience of US immigration is not quite as Paul describes here. A spousal visa for the US does require minimum income and/or assets held by the sponsor.

    See here under “income requirements”:

    and here for the thresholds, which are actually higher than the UK:

  13. Talking aboot ‘benefits tourism,’ ye forgot tae mention thit ye cannae even GET tae sign off fir three months eftir ye come here fae a non-EU country.

  14. This is an issue on which I think it is time the Scottish Government took a firm stand, We have watched productive members of society be deported by the WM govt, while the Scottish govt sat back and let it happen. Time for a bit of peaceful civil disobedience on their part. They should refuse to let these people be dragged from their homes. Refuse the Home Office access to them. I’m sick of feeling impotent when it comes to the defence of our citizens rights. Time for our govt to make a stand – and if they don’t then maybe it’s time for some civil disobedience from the people.

  15. I don’t know how widely it’s understood, but the situation that Paul describes, and now seems to be affecting many families and couples in Scotland (under UK ‘rules’) is NOT NORMAL.

    These are all new rules that have been put in place within the past decade in order to further political aims and nothing else.

    I arrived back in the UK with my heavily pregnant Indonesian wife in 1997. We had to go through some checks before coming here, but they were all reasonable and fair.

    I didn’t have a job (having left my employer in Japan due to the economic downturn a few years previously), and chose not to work, instead to study, for the first two years of my first son’s life so that I could play a major part in his upbringing. I then secured a relatively low-paid self-employment job for a while, till I became fully employed in 2000.

    During this period, my wife successfully applied for permanent leave to remain. We exchanged communication with various government agencies in England and Scotland, and everything was conducted with respect and common sense,

    My wife chose not to apply for UK citizenship because she would have lost rights in Indonesia that could have affected her ability to return to Indonesia and be with her family in future. In retrospect, that appears to be a wise choice.

    I’m not optimistic about where this is headed. I’d like to think our family won’t be forced apart by politically driven policy, but who can be sure. I can clearly see that many worthwhile, honest, hard-working relationships are being wrecked by what is basically ethnic cleansing by beaurocrat.

    Scotland needs out of this asap.

  16. O/T

    Another of those QED moments.

    Pretty much the smoking wossiname on Christmas boxes and press collusion with party politics.

    Apologies for not archiving the next link, but the Herald is notoriously impossible to archive. However, this piece by Mr McKenna is well worth it.

  17. My son hasn’t been home for 3 years. His brother and are the only family members to have met his wife apart from on Skype as we went to India. Now I have a Grandson (a British citizen) who cannot even come to visit unless they leave his momma behind in India. Why? because the HO have decided she will not return to her own country. That is just for a visit never mind trying to get a spouse visa. It is inhuman the way non-EU spouses are treated and families have to exist on Skype. I miss them.

  18. My son is married to an American and I have two grandchildren with dual citizenship. They live in the US at present but, to illustrate the insanity of the rules, if my son were to get a job here, as I understand it he would not be allowed to bring his wife here until he could show evidence of a salary of £18,600 for a minimum of six months. As it would be a new job, effectively my daughter in law would have to wait six months before being able to join her husband here. He could of course bring their children as they are British citizens.
    Here’s the best bit though. He would be allowed to bring his wife immediately if she was described as his childminder!
    You couldn’t make it up. We need to get our independence and fast.

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