A tide of major reforms to the British immigration system could effectively exclude thousands of hopefuls from settling on UK soil. Most adversely shaken by the UK Border Agency’s amends to its family class sponsorship program are British citizens with foreign-born spouses or common-law partners. Their choices are twofold: either be forced to emigrate away from Britain or live apart and risk the disintegration of their families.
Among the UK’s catalogue of other reforms includes a rigorous verbal English proficiency exam and a minimum income limitation for foreign-born partners of UK citizens requesting to settle in Britain on a family visa. Officials have also considered extending the probationary period for non-citizens granted visas to five years instead of two years, in order to substantiate the couple’s attachment to Britain. As the UK attempts to safeguard itself from Europe’s malignant economic downturn, its new rules make immigration inaccessible for individuals who make less than £25,700 a year, punishing almost 60% of the 53,000 family visas it processes annually.
While Britain closes its doors for immigrant families, Canada’s remain open. The Canada immigration family class sponsorship program is a Citizenship and Immigration Canada priority stream and is a successful avenue for spousal reunification. Foreign-born partners need not meet a minimum income requirement. Conversely, the program makes them eligible for Canada permanent resident permits provided that their spouse is at least 18 years of age, is a citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, and has not been convicted of a violent or sexual criminal offense, among a few other specifications. Finally, CIC commits the sponsor to support his or her spouse financially for three years if needed and that the Canada permanent resident applicant maximizes their efforts to become financially autonomous.
With a family-class sponsorship that does not exile its citizens from their own country nor penalise low-income applicants, Canada’s spousal reunification program is at the same time more inclusive and accessible. For example in Canada, disabled persons receiving financial assistance from the government are still eligible as sponsors. Spousal sponsorship in Canada has fast processing times and remains a pillar of the Canadian immigration system. But if Ministers decide to prolong the probationary interval for applicants granted family visas in Britain, a dossier compiled by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) emphasizes that this could ensnare more women in abusive marriages for extended periods.