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UK Labour Party to scrap financial threshold for foreign spouses

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, attends a campaign event in Manchester, May 9, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

UK’s Labour Party has pledged to scrap the controversial visa threshold which implements strict minimum income criteria to grant visa to foreigners wed to British citizens.

“We do not believe family life should be protected only for the wealthy and so we propose to replace the income thresholds for family attachments with an obligation to survive without recourse to public funds," the leaked version of the party’s draft manifesto said on Thursday.

“We believe fair rules mean that a distinction should be made between family connections and migrant labor,” it added. 

In the draft it was maintained that families from all levels of income should be protected and the law should not be limited to the wealthy. It also mentioned that the threshold will be replaced with “an obligation to survive without recourse to public funds.”

The law which was passed in 2010 aimed at curbing immigration figures. But the regulation has had a devastating impact on British couples and families who wish to sponsor a family member from outside Europe.

Guy (L), Stacey (R), and Vincent Bailey (C), are separated until Mr. Bailey earns his salary for six months, due to family migration rules brought into force in 2010 in UK. (File photo)

The manifesto continued, “Labour will replace the financial threshold test for family reunion.”

Current Britain immigration rules require the citizens to earn more than £18,600 ($24,000) before their foreign partner can join them on a spouse visa.

“We believe fair rules mean that a distinction should be made between family connections and migrant labor,” the leaked version of the party’s draft manifesto says.

Many disapproved the policy saying it discriminated against working class people on lower incomes. This rate is even higher for couples with children who are not British citizens, rising to £22,400 ($29,000) for a couple with a first child and then an additional £2,400 ($3,000) for each additional child. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May, then Home Secretary, introduced the rule in 2010, with the aim of reducing the burden on the taxpayer.

In February, the Supreme Court upheld the Government’s policy after a legal challenge against it. Some of the judges agreed that the minimum income requirement was “acceptable in principle”, even though they admitted the lack of safeguards for the welfare of children. 

Just as Britain prepares for delicate negotiations on leaving the European Union (Brexit), May made a surprise announcement on April 18 May for an early general election to be held on June 8. She believed that the elections would help her and her party to defend their throne against their rivals, including an aggressive Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

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Corbyn has repeatedly slammed May’s political policies, criticizing her claim that she will construct “a Britain that works for everyone.”

According to quarterly figures from the Home Office for National Statistics in 2016, some 630,000 people came to Britain in 2015 while only 297,000 left the country.

While the total migrants entering the UK showed a slight drop of 2,000, the number of those who left the country was 22,000 less than 2015, leading to a net migration of 333,000.

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