The Tory government enforces stringent visa rules for UK citizens bringing foreign spouses, disproportionately affecting families and increasing NHS fees. Despite this, a Tory rebellion aims for stricter immigration policies, considering Boris Johnson’s return and Nigel Farage’s involvement.

J ust when you thought that the dysfunctional and chaotic theatre of cruelty that passes for the Conservative government could not stoop any lower, it still manages to shock with its performative sadism and its capacity to destroy the lives of thousands of law-abiding and gainfully employed people purely for the sake of pandering to the rabidly frothing hate mongers of the extreme right media who increasingly are the true drivers of government policy.

Last week the new Home Secretary, the laughably misnamed James Cleverly, announced changes to the qualifying requirements for family visas, the visas that British citizens must apply for in order to bring their foreign spouses and dependent children to live with them in the UK.

Under the new rules, those wishing to bring their spouse to the UK will now have to earn £38,700 annually, more than double the previous figure of £18,600. The new price on love imposed by the Tories is significantly higher than the average UK annual salary of £35,464. Although the change is not retrospective, the government has confirmed that the new higher figure will apply to those already living here who seek to renew their visas.

Home Secretary James Cleverly visiting Rwanda last week.

On the initial application, only the income of the British citizen, the ‘visa sponsor’ is counted, any income earned by the foreign spouse is discounted, even in cases where they may be able to continue their employment in the UK. Joint household income is counted towards meeting the threshold only when the visa is due for renewal.

Thanks to changes introduced by Theresa ‘Hostile Environment’ May, the foreign spouses of UK citizens must apply for a renewal of their spouse visa at least once before becoming eligible to apply for permanent leave to remain in the UK.

A spouse visa lasts for two and a half years, but a foreign spouse must have lived in the UK for five years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain. On initially applying for the visa, and when renewing it, the applicant must pay visa and lawyer fees which can reach £2,500 or more, (you don’t need an immigration lawyer to make the application, but given the complexity of the rules it’s strongly advised.) Additionally, an NHS supplement of more than £1,500 must be paid, £624 per year, working out at £1,560 for a visa lasting two and a half years.

This NHS supplement must be paid both upon initially applying for the visa and when renewing it, even if the visa holder has been employed and has paid UK taxes and National Insurance the entire time.

When the visa is granted, it comes on the condition that the visa holder has no recourse to public funds, no foreign spouse of a UK citizen here on a spouse visa is eligible to claim or receive any benefits irrespective of any changes to their household’s circumstances.

This has been the case for many years. The new increase in the required income level is categorically not about ensuring that “if you are bringing someone into the country you are able to support them,” as a spokeshypocrite for Downing Street claimed.

The existing rules already did that. These changes are about removing the right of thousands of British citizens to bring their foreign spouses to the UK. The changes mean that only those who have an income significantly greater than the average wage will be able to bring their foreign spouses to the UK.

However, if an income of £38,700 is now deemed to be the threshold for living a decent life in the UK, we can surely look forward to the government increasing the minimum wage to £19 per hour and significantly boosting pensions and benefits.

From now on, thanks to the Tories, marrying a foreigner becomes a privilege restricted to the better off. Don’t fall in love with a foreigner unless you earn significantly more than the average wage.

However, the cruellest part of these changes is that they will apply to those renewing their visas. Having made the initial application and being granted a visa on the basis of an annual income of £18,600, people who may have been residing in the UK for as long as five years will now find that their income is nowhere near sufficient for their visa to be renewed. This could see families long established in the UK being torn apart, and many others who had been hoping to bring their spouses to the UK having the rug pulled from underneath them and their plans left in tatters.

Additionally, the NHS supplement is being raised by 66% to £1,035 annually meaning that the typical spouse visa applicant will have to pay £5,175 in additional fees before becoming eligible to apply for Indefinite leave to remain. Most of that will cover periods when the applicant is paying UK taxes and National Insurance. Foreign spouses get charged twice for using the NHS.

This is a piece of Tory nastiness which is totally out of line with spousal visa requirements in other nations and which will have devastating consequences for many families. In the UK, there is no right to a family life.

The irony is that these changes will not even affect the headline immigration figure that Sunak so obsesses over, as they will apply to foreign spouses who have already been residing legally in the UK for several years.

Sunak is now facing a rebellion on his backbenches over his immigration policy, not because it’s cruel, vicious, and inhumane, but because it’s not cruel, vicious, and inhumane enough.

Some Tory MPs are now openly plotting to get rid of Sunak before the next general election in the hopes that a new leadership can rescue the party from being trounced at the polls. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but they are actually touting bringing back Boris Johnson and offering the deputy leadership to Nigel Farage. Sunak’s enemies on his own backbenches have reportedly drawn up an advent calendar of sh*t aimed at destabilising the Prime Minister.

One suggestion, being touted by the Mail and Telegraph newspapers, is that a Johnson ally, such as former Home Secretary Priti Patel, could be installed as a caretaker Prime Minister, with Johnson standing for a safe seat at the Election, then returning to No 10. The rebels are also promoting the idea of giving Farage and Richard Tice, the leader of the far-right Reform party, places in the Lords and key ministerial positions.

Nigel Farage at a 2024 Presidential Republican debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

On the back of his appearance on I’m a Celebrity, Normalising Fascism the extreme right Farage is taking advantage of the platform repeatedly offered to him by the British media and is reportedly keen to return to politics.

Farage can’t win a reality TV show competition any more than he can win at the ballot box, but he won’t stop whining about it and being enabled in his whining by the British media. A seat in the Lords is his only shot at political power. The Westminster system is so corrupt that this would be within the rules, rules that Keir Starmer has no intention of changing.

The plan is delusional and has little chance of being put into place, far less of succeeding, but it is indicative of how dangerously unhinged and extreme right the Tories have become that it is even being considered. The Tories have got so extreme and crazy that they think the solution to their cruel insanity is to become even crueller and more insane.

PMP Magazine



Text: This piece was originally published in Wee Ginger Dug and re-published in PMP Magazine on 14 December 2023. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Flickr/Number 10. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)
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