Social Justice

Family with two young children faces being split up by UK plan to cut legal migration: 'It's wrong'

"My right to family life is being infringed by the Home Office," says Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, whose husband's visa depends on her keeping her job

visa rules

Josephine and Medet moved back to the UK to raise their children. Image: Supplied

Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz and her husband Memet came back to the UK from Turkey two years ago to raise their young children. But new visa rules in the government’s most recent crackdown on migration has left them facing separation if she loses her job.

“We live in a country where basically, if you can’t afford to pay, you can’t love who you want to love. That’s gross,” says Josephine, who works for a migration charity.

“Why is my right to choose, as a British citizen, who I marry, circumscribed by Home Office policy? My right to family life is being infringed by the Home Office.”

New rules, introduced as part of the government’s plans to reduce migration by 300,000 a year, mean a UK citizen must have an income of at least £38,700 to obtain a visa for their foreign spouse.

Raising the income threshold from an existing £18,600 to above the national average salary, the move has been criticised by former Tory minister Gavin Barwell as a “morally wrong and unconservative” situation where “only the wealthiest can fall in love, marry someone, and then bring them to the UK”.

These new visa rules mean that Whitaker-Yilmaz and Medet, a Turkish national, would be dependent on her income remaining over £38,700.

Were their situation to change, they would face a sickening choice. “If I were to leave my job or get sick and not be able to work, then it’s a choice of do we take our kids?,” she says.

Their children, aged seven and three, are both British citizens. But the new rules may see them – in practice – unable to remain in the UK with both their parents.

“Do we take them out of school? We only moved back to the UK two and a half years ago? Do we shift them again? Or does my husband leave and I’m effectively going to be a single parent while we figure out what to do? The choices are pretty bleak,” says Whitaker-Yilmaz.

visa rules
“My right to family life is being infringed by the Home Office,” says Whitaker-Yilmaz. Image: Supplied

Medet must reapply for his visa in June next year, which will take him up to halfway through his five year route to indefinite leave to remain. When he has been in the UK for five years, he will be able to apply for settled status. But passing each hurdle relies on meeting the income requirements.

“I feel because my husband’s status here is contingent on the Home Office, it leaves you feeling very insecure and anxious a lot of the time,” says Whitaker-Yilmaz, who adds that she doesn’t believe the rules will reduce migration as much as is hoped.

“The assumption that people can just go home is totally flawed. For a lot of people their marriage would break, they’ve got British children.”

Those already below the new threshold face an even more urgent situation with the planned visa rules, said Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice.

“We have already witnessed the harm which current income requirements required by the government cause to families. There are children right now who can only see a parent over zoom, due to charges which would not be levelled against anyone else,” said Ramadan.

“Raising the threshold to more than twice the minimum wage, and above even the average salary, will only worsen the situation. It will destroy families and leave people separated from their loved ones. What kind of message is that sending to the world?”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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