Experts are investigating the impact on EU-UK families of strict immigration rules now that the UK has left the European Union.
Citizens from EEA states or Switzerland previously enjoyed very wide rights to live in the UK. Now, if they do not have settled or pre-settled status or another type of visa, they need a spouse or partner visa to live with their partner in the UK, a prolonged and expensive process that requires the British partner to meet income requirements that are set above the income of around half the population. The process also involves assessments of the ‘genuineness’ of relationships and the ‘suitability’ of applicants.
These rules have applied to UK-non EU couples since 2012, and analysis has shown they have led to family separation, hardship, and inequalities in access to legal status. Those who cannot meet financial requirements often do not apply, and one in five applications are refused. Errors in visa decision-making mean half of human rights appeals succeed – but appeals are costly, lengthy and stressful.
The study, funded by the ESRC, will be led by Professors Katharine Charsley from the University of Bristol and Helena Wray from the University of Exeter. Researchers will interview 50 EU-UK couples facing these new immigration rules as they negotiate these changes over the next two years. They will also interview immigration lawyers, judges, civil society organisations and policymakers and analyse the statistical background, trends in visa applications and decision making, policy and rule changes, judicial decisions, and decision-makers’ correspondence.
Professor Wray said: “Our work will document the impact on UK-EU couples over time of domestic immigration laws post-Brexit and how decision-makers are responding to the presence of a new category of applicants. The consequences for families is an overlooked effect of Brexit.
“This is a unique opportunity to track the expansion of spouse migration rules to a previously unaffected population. It will provide new insight into the impact of and justifications for the UK’s spousal migration policies.”
They will share their findings through a new book, academic papers, a podcast series and a project website.