Brexit could break up more than a political union – it could break up families
While Theresa May´s government remains in turmoil after the shock general election result, her Brexit plans officially remain unchanged. When speaking at the EU Summit in Brussels, May promised fellow leaders that EU citizens who have lived in the UK for more than five years will have the right to stay once the country has withdrawn from the union.
In the scenario that EU nationals will have to undergo similar visa applications as non-EEA residents, May´s laborious and costly immigration protocols could make it considerably harder for families to stay together. Britons with EU partners have required no visas for living together in the UK, or in any EU country, thanks to the EU freedom of movement policy. However, Britons in relationships with partners from outside of Europe face considerable challenges in securing permits to live together in the UK. It has led some UK citizens to leave the country, and now their future is unclear.
Katrin, from Scotland, met her Colombian husband David while completing an English Language Assistant post in Pasto. When the couple decided to move back to Europe, they were forced to rule out the UK.
She said: “In the UK there’s no way we could’ve even gone through the process for settling, it’s incredibly expensive, and we couldn’t have afforded it. “It requires a lot of separation, which would have been hugely emotionally taxing.”
In 2012, acting as Home Secretary, Theresa May oversaw new policies to regulate the approval process for spouse visas. For their non-British spouses to legally work in the UK, Britons have to meet the requirements for a spouse visa; which currently requires the British sponsor to earn a minimum of £18,600 a year, thousands more than the minimum wage, held for six months prior to the application. This rises to £22,400 for a non-EEA partner and child; and with an extra £2,500 for any additional child application. On top of the salary requirements, applicants have to pay £1,464 for the visa application with an NHS surcharge.
Families unable to meet the conditions have been torn apart. This has led to campaigns and petitions to lower the tariffs. Standalone appeals have brought sympathy from Courts, but rarely any change. In February this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the minimum income requirement was lawful, despite being one of the harshest immigration policies for spouses in the Western world.
As a result of this, many British couples have settled on moving to the EU with their partner; as the conditions are more tolerant and inclusive.
Katrin, who settled on The Netherlands, said: “Because I’m an EU citizen I can live here and have the right to work here.
“The Dutch immigration laws are more humane, my partner can come here and live here as long as I’m working”
The couple paid 50 euro for the application fee, and had to be registered at the same address, while Katrin had to prove she had full-time employment in the Netherlands. Any applicants need to hold a work contract that earns a minimum of € 1,675.73 a month, which is equal to the statutory minimum wage.
The visa restrictions for Britons to move to the EU is as of yet undetermined; however it looks likely that opportunities for Britons to be with non-EU spouses is set to be increasingly difficult without EU membership.
By Charis McGowan