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One rule for the rich

One rule for the rich

The Government’s plan massively to increase the minimum income threshold required to sponsor family members to the UK came one step closer yesterday with the publication of a report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The full report can be accessed here. Analysis by Alan Travis of The Guardian can be found here and by Matt Cavanagh of the IPPR here.

The MAC is proposing the introduction of a minimum gross (i.e. before tax) income threshold of at least £18,600 and perhaps as much as £25,700. The MAC assumes that this threshold excludes possible future income from the spouse entering the UK – which means that the figures are proposed minimum incomes for the UK-based sponsor alone. Both figures, but particularly the higher one, are based on a huge range of assumptions.

The MAC also estimates that 45% of current applicants would not meet the lower income threshold and 64% of current applicants would not meet the higher threshold. For comparison, that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, tells me that in 2011 average and median individual earnings in Britain were around £26,000. Travis estimates that half the UK’s working population would be excluded from sponsoring family members by the higher of the two proposed thresholds.

As the MAC recognise in the report, there would be a significant bias against applicants from Scotland and the north of England, where average incomes are lower. There would therefore be a bias in favour of migration to the London area. The figures cited also assume that there are no children or dependents in the household, and the MAC proposes a multiplier formula to address this issue, meaning that much higher thresholds might be introduced for those with children.

The basis of calculation for the two proposed figures of £18,600 and £25,700 is very different, so it is not really a question of the Government picking a number somewhere between the two – it will likely be one or the other. The lower figure is based on the MAC’s opinion on income level required not to receive any benefits including tax credits. The higher figure is referred to as the ‘net fiscal impacts approach’, which uses a broader interpretation of the concept of burden on the state.

There will no doubt be more news to follow on this subject. There is no timescale for the introduction of the income threshold, but given Cameron’s support for the idea it may be introduced quite soon.

Free Movement
The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.

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