Labour has warned that the Government’s new immigration rules could lead to a “big increase in rushed marriages” in the months before they take effect.
The minimum income needed for foreign workers to bring a spouse or dependant into the UK on a family visa will rise from £18,600 to £38,700 next spring under plans announced on Monday by James Cleverly, the Home Secretary.
The new figure is the same as the skilled salary threshold, which has also been raised. Applicants will have a right of appeal where they can seek to demonstrate “exceptional” reasons.
But Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, suggested the measure should be reconsidered by an expert panel before it is introduced and expressed fears that it could have unintended consequences.
Ms Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we’re asking for is the migration advisory committee to look at this. It looks as though the committee hasn’t actually been asked to look at this for over 10 years.
“So they should be asked to look at this very swiftly, and to look at what the best way to approach this is, because at the moment this seems to have come out of thin air with no plan at all and because there’s a possibility that actually what this will lead to is a big increase in rushed marriages and so on in the next few months because of the changes.”
The minimum income requirement was included in a five-point plan put to Rishi Sunak by Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, after figures released last month showed net migration had hit a record high.
A total of 745,000 legal migrants arrived in Britain in the year to last December, according to revised estimates published by the Office for National Statistics.
Ms Cooper also said the Government was right to take measures to reduce net migration but warned not enough was being done to fill the gaps in Britain’s domestic workforce.
“Let’s be clear, net migration should come down. We’ve seen this record increase in the level of net migration which does reflect the Conservative failure on asylum, on immigration and on the economy,” she said.
“It is as a result of Conservative policies and a failure to tackle skills shortages, so we have seen this very big increase in work visas.”
Asked about the Government raising the minimum salary required for a skilled foreign worker to come to Britain from £26,200 to £38,700, Ms Cooper said the threshold should be increased but the migration advisory committee should advise on the details of the policy.
Repeating her criticisms of the Rwanda plan as Mr Cleverly touched down in Kigali, she said: “They’ve now sent more home secretaries than they have asylum seekers to Rwanda.
“He’s gone with another chequebook to try and continue to pursue a failing policy that is still only likely to ever affect a few hundred people whilst over a thousand people arrived on small boats over the last week because they’re failing to tackle the criminal gangs.”
Labour has said it would cancel the Rwanda scheme even if it succeeded in slashing small boat arrivals, with Sir Keir Starmer, the party leader, calling it “the wrong policy”.