MPs raise alarm over policy which breaks up British families

One of the coalition's immigration policies is splitting up British families and leading children to be raised without their parents, MPs warned today.

Members of the all-party group on migration said a new requirement for Brits to be earning £18,600 if they are bringing a non-EU spouse into the country needs to be urgently reviewed.

"During the course of the inquiry we heard from many families in which British children are being made to grow up away from a parent, or where families had been forced to move overseas in order to be together," former Liberal Democrat children's minister Sarah Teather said.

"Whatever the objective of the policy, children shouldn't suffer as a result. Now is the time to take another look at the policy."

Submissions from 175 families painted a picture of an arbitrary system which was keeping couples apart from each other and their children.

One case involved an Australian earning £250,000 as a chief financial officer of a multinational company in Dubai who was ineligible to live with his wife in Britain because overseas earnings do not count.

The earnings of the spouse cannot be included in the assessment of whether the family can be self-sufficient without recourse to public funds, although anyone with cash savings of £62,500 can avoid the income benchmark.

The income threshold rises to £22,400 if the couple have a child and rises by £2,400 for every additional child.

In the case of one family who spoke with Politics.co.uk, the children had started to refer to their mother as 'computer mummy' because they only talked to her on Skype.

British citizens can circumvent the rules by living in Europe and then applying from outside of Britain, but that involves a period of usually around six months overseas.

The inquiry also found that a route for grandparents to come stay with their children had now all-but closed. Just one elderly dependent relative visa was granted between June and October 2012.