Immigration Minister Damien Green has today called for the support of UK Government plans to stop family settlement visas being used to bypass British immigration laws.
Following an examination of UK Border Agency (UKBA) files from 2009 onwards, the Government is concerned by the findings as they show that a large number of people on a UK settlement marriage visa had never even visited the UK.
The study brought attention to the fact that two-thirds of immigrants who come to the UK on a UK fiancée, spouse or partner visa have never before visited the UK, and that every year more than 40,000 migrants enter the UK to marry or join an existing spouse, and bring with them a further 9,000 children and other dependants.
With the Government’s latest focus on cuts highlighting a need for stringent measures when it comes to bogus marriage visa applications, or where applicants are not actually able to support themselves or their dependants financially, Mr Green’s plans are likely to find many supporters.
At a speech to the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Green said today, “These are sensitive issues which have been ignored for far too long, but ones we are determined to tackle. We want a system that lets everyone know where they stand and what their responsibilities are. If your marriage is not genuine, if you have no interest in this country and its way of life, if you are coming here to live off benefits, don’t come in the first place. This is why our focus is on delivering better family migration – better for migrants, for communities and for the UK as a whole.”
Mr Green’s speech also explained how the UK Government intends to radically overhaul family immigration rules in order to obtain a UK marriage visa, including strict new income tests for sponsors wishing to bring in their partner. Register offices will also be given new powers to refuse to marry people or insist on a delay if they believe the marriage is bogus, and spouses and partners will also be required to wait five years to settle in the UK permanently, rather than the current two.
One particularly worrying statistic from the study showed that around eight out of ten of people who arrived on family visas from Pakistan or Bangladesh in 2004 had settled in the UK permanently within five years, with around one in five of those people sponsoring marriage visas either unemployed or earning less than the minimum wage, and one in three living with family or friends and unable to support themselves financially. With the ever-increasing drain on the UK public purse, this new concerted effort to tackle those that should not legitimately be entering the UK on a marriage visa is likely to be well-received.
Chairman of Migrationwatch Sir Andrew Green gave his support, saying, “A surprisingly high proportion of those granted marriage visas appear to be total newcomers to Britain. An inflow of this kind can only add to continuing problems of integrating very large numbers of foreign migrants into our society.”