• Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

UK moves to stop low income Nigerians, others from bringing families

Japa: Nigerians in the UK trapped in cost of living crisis

Nigerians living in the UK earning below £29,000 will no longer be able to bring their families into the United Kingdom due to a new policy on family visas by the UK Home Office.

Just days before Christmas, loved ones have to face the reality that they may be separated for even longer as The UK Home Office announced Friday that the salary threshold for family visa will rise to £29,000 in 2024, before then rising in incremental stages.

This comes after pressure from parliament led Home Office Minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom to drop the threshold from an initial 108% hike to £38,700 from £18,600. However, he confirmed that the long-term plan is for the threshold to rise to £34,500 and eventually to £38,700 with no specific date given.

The decision to raise the threshold has been driven by concerns about immigration abuse and the need to cut net migration, which hit record levels last year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that net migration to the UK was 745,000 in 2022, up from 184,000 in 2019 before the pandemic.

The rise in overall net migration was driven by an increase in non-EU citizens coming to the UK. Further data suggests that there were 925,000 non-EU long-term arrivals in 2022, over two and a half times more than the number recorded in 2019 (364,000).

This move, alongside the package to restrict student dependants, means around “300,000 people who would have been eligible to come to the UK under last year’s rules, will now not be able to.”

According to the report, raising the salary threshold will “ensure people only bring dependants to the UK they can support financially.” The threshold would also apply to the visa route that British or Irish citizens, or those settled in the UK, can use to bring their family to the UK.

Advocacy groups and Non-profit organisations have taken a stand against the increment labelling it as inconsiderate and “ridiculously high.” Reunite Families UK, an advocacy group for couples and families affected by the UK spouse/family visa rules, maintain that “£29,000 is still very high for most families,” stating that it “excludes over half a population from sponsoring a foreign spouse and is much higher than the minimum wage so those on lower salaries are still being told their family isn’t welcome here.”

In April 2023, The UK government implemented a 9.2% increase in the national minimum wage, however, it falls thousands of pounds below the threshold for minimum salary earners.

The average Nigerian of above 23 years working in the UK is entitled to a minimum pay of £10.42 per hour resulting in an estimated annual income of £21,798, and £26,200 for skilled workers- Over £7,000 below the threshold.

Despite this shortfall, this is not the case for everyone as official data reveal that 93.6% of employee jobs still need to be covered by the National Minimum Wage in the UK.

The new policy exempts individuals who are already in the Skilled Worker route when they change their sponsor, extend their stay or settle.

However, it goes on to state that their pay should progress at the same rate as resident workers. When these individuals make a future application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle, they would be subject to the updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data.