❤ L’amour sans frontières ❤

Image by Silvia Sala is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.

Anyone mad enough or unlucky enough to fall in love with someone from another country faces BIG problems, and for Brits with international hearts, these have just got bigger as a result of Brexit.

Suppose, (as a result, perhaps, of Tinder dating), you have the urge to go further with a relationship, assuming social distance rules and travel restrictions get lifted during 2021.

So you want either to travel to your beloved’s country or invite them here to UK.   You can do that with your respective national passports (provided they are valid for at least six months after dates of your proposed visit), but ONLY for 90 days out of every 180 days. So to get the max out of this budding relationship – you stay together 90 days here and 90 days there, alternating through the year. If your beloved is not from one of the countries the EU does not require a visa from, then factor in the cost of a “Schengen visa” at €80, which does allow movement between Schengen countries, but still limits the total stay to 90 days.

Snakes and ladders

This is all very well if you have an independent source of wealth and do not need to EARN.  Supposing you do need to earn and can do so in short 90 day bursts in either country. Within the EU, professional qualifications gained from any other member country are recognised.  But post-Brexit, the Brits have lost this recognition.  So the love-lorn engineer or vet is not allowed to contract for professional work within the EU. It is as yet unclear if the UK Government will recognise the qualifications of the EU migrant. It is certainly better if we do in such shortage occupations as phyto-sanitary inspectors and nurses.

Brexit Britain has recently devised a new “points-based” system for deciding who can and who can’t work in the UK.  So if you, as a couple, want to stay together for longer than the 90 day tourist rotation arrangement,  you have to scrutinise both the work and residence rules for the UK and for your partner’s country – or any other preferred destination (more awkward if neither of you has previous ties there).  For those coming into the UK, there is a tier system: 

  • Tier 1 is for the rich investor or for those of “exceptional talent”
  • Tier 2 is or skilled workers (in two lists of “shortage” occupations, one for health/education and another for everything else)
  • Tier 3, unskilled, is suspended ( but listen to the clamour of the farmers about the need to revive the Seasonal Workers visas!)
  • Tier 4 is for registered students, and Tier 5 is for temporary work. There are also some 20,000 youth allowed in each year (mostly Aussies, NZ, Canadians, former “dominion” countries) under the Youth mobility scheme.

In January, a special scheme was  announced for British Overseas citizens from Hong Kong.

The requirements of proof in each category are formidable.  For Tier 1, it is obviously  mainly financial documents. “Exceptional talent” is also clearly defined – it is not just any optimistic street fiddler who can get in, it would be a musician with defined employment in a reputable orchestra. Tier 2 (fee £610 plus same for each dependant) includes “Minister of Religion”  again with formidable recognition and sponsoring requirements from the faith community. There are also wordly-wise restrictions on would-be profit-seeking prophets investing in their own faith sponsors.

The fees for the various visas are carefully calibrated according to expected ability to pay, the most expensive being £25,000 for company sponsorship. The next most expensive is for a dependent relative, at £3,250, which seems a bit harsh, but doubtless it is realistic as family networks will rustle up the funds somehow.  A retired person of independent means can come in for £1,949.  Someone on the route to settlement (like the partner of a UK citizen) has to pay £1,523, but settlement can take up to 10 years; citizenship requires the UK Citizenship test (more fees).

The rules about the rights of family members of workers moving between EU countries were established in Directive 38 (2004), but whether someone in a civil partnership or same-sex relationship is covered by this vary from country to country, with extremely cautious wording:

should be examined by the host Member State on the basis of its own national legislation, in order to decide whether entry and residence could be granted to such persons, taking into consideration their relationship with the Union citizen or any other circumstances, such as their financial or physical dependence on the Union citizen.

So some countries recognise the rights of partners in exactly the same way as other family members, and some don’t. The rights of partners from non-EU countries, now including Britons, are even more constrained. There are more onerous checks especially to ensure that the partner bears the maintenance responsibility and the in-comer does not become a cost on the State.

What about refugees?

Refugees, of course, do not have to pay any of these visa fees, and they can even qualifiy for an “integration loan”.    So this may seem the cheapo route to settlement in the UK. But bear in mind the refugee has to come plausibly from a violent or war-torn part of the world, has probably paid a lot in bribes or forced labour, and to smugglers to get thus far, and will then face gruelling scrutiny of documentary and oral evidence.  However, they should get free access to the NHS.

Heath charges

Health charges are another cost to migrating partners and families. Foreign students and those on youth mobility visas coming to UK pay £470. For all other visas the annual health surcharge is £624 per adult (£470 per child), which is onerous for families. They are then entitled to use the NHS.  Short-term visitors to UK used to use the NHS, and UK visitors to EU used reciprocal services under the EHIC scheme. Since Brexit, this has changed to the GHIC card and extra travel insurance is advisable. Non-EU travellers always had to have adequate travel insurance, which becomes increasingly expensive with age. British citizens resident overseas would also have to pay, as they would not be registered with a GP in the UK

Anyone subject to UK Immigration control (as defined by the 1999 Act) has “no recourse to public funds” (aka NRPF). In other words, none of the welfare benefits available to UK residents.  There were reciprocal benefits for family members within the EU (eg child benefit), but this is all now removed with Brexit.  Poverty researchers claim that some of the worst cases of street homelessness are from this category, some 100,000 migrant women, some of them victims of domestic abuse. 

Readers of the right-wing press might applaud these NRPF rules as stopping “benefit scroungers”, but they forget that these same people have been granted the right to come to the UK (or their partners have) because they contribute to the economy by studying or working here. And if they have a job, they pay the same taxes as citizens, yet they also have to pay visa and health surcharge costs on top.

Border control is a balancing act between the need to encourage tourism (stays up to 90 days) and the inflow of needed skills (sponsored visas), calculated against the possible costs of needy migrants, and xenophobic attitudes. 

It does not look as though “Global Britain” is going to get love without borders any time soon.