The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has recently published the results of an investigation into how the minimum income requirements for non-EEA family members in the UK are affecting British citizens working as employees in the UK.

The investigation found that the current £18,600 income threshold is excluding a majority (55%) of British women and people under 30 (53%) from bringing a spouse or family member from outside the EU to live with them in the UK.

The report also reveals that just over 40% of British citizens working as employees remain ineligible to bring a spouse to the country, based on their earnings in 2015. As well as women and young people, UK citizens are less likely to earn enough to meet the threshold if they do not have higher education (53%).

Unlike people living in the rest of the UK, a majority of British citizens who are London dwellers (73%) meet the threshold, even if they are female (67%), under the age of 30 (69%) or do not have higher education (53%).

How easily couples can meet the income requirement also depends on which partner earns more income. Under current rules, people who are working abroad when they apply to join their spouse in the UK cannot count their earnings towards the threshold. This is because of the concern that they will not work—and hence contribute to supporting their family without access to welfare benefits—after they arrive.

The report shows that while family migrants have lower employment rates than the UK average, available data suggests at least half do find work in the UK after they arrive. Family migrants are more likely to work in the UK if they are men.

“In some respects, the current family migration rules prioritise couples in which the UK partner is the main breadwinner,” commented Carlos Vargas-Silva, Senior Researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. “That is likely to make it easier for men to sponsor their wives rather than vice versa.”

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