By Ian Dunt
Nearly half of Brits working in the UK are banned from living with a spouse from outside the EU under the coalition's tough new anti-immigration law, new research has revealed.
Rules introduced by Theresa May mean only people earning over £18,600 can bring a wife or husband to live with them in the UK, leaving 47% of British employees unable to live with their loved one in their own country.
"This analysis shows that hardworking families outside London are bearing the brunt of the government's tough migration rules," Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants Rights Network said.
"Effectively, a price has been put on love - and those who don't earn enough are facing indefinite separation from their husband or wife.
"This is not just a problem in the immigration rules, it raises questions about the kind of society we want to be - one that respects the right of British citizens to live with their family or one that deems some too poor to have equal rights?"
The research found 74 constituencies in which less than 50% of employees earn £18,600 per year.
Brits in the north-west and south-west of England, as well as across Wales, are particularly likely to be affected due to lower than average earnings in those regions.
The £18,600 benchmark is considerably higher than that earned by a full-time worker earning the national minimum wage, who receives approximately £13,200.
A Home Office impact assessment found up to 17,800 family visas would be affected, but the human cost has been much more powerful than the numbers suggest.
Emotional accounts of families separated by visa rules or children being forced to grow up without one of their parents have shocked researchers and triggered a concerted legal fight to change the rules.
Last year, a high court judgement found the rules were an "unjustified and disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship" and suggested the benchmark should be set at £13,400.
Families affected by the rules are currently holding out for a court of appeal judgement on the original case.
An all-party parliamentary group on migration report into the rules saw MPs, peers and children's commissioners call for an immediate review of the rules.
By Ian Dunt