In this paper, we explain conceptually how income requirements for citizens of a country to sponsor visas of foreign family members discriminate against certain groups of the population. Then, we analyse the case of an annual income requirement of £18,600 adopted by the UK Government in 2012 to sponsor visas of non-EEA partners and children in order to show the degree to which the policy discriminates against women and ethnic minorities. Results suggest that, controlling for relevant socio-demographic characteristics, British working women are 30 percentage points less likely to earn enough to sponsor a non-EEA partner compared to males, while working British ethnic minorities are 7 percentage points less likely to earn enough compared to the British White group. In order for the income requirement to have the same impact on men and women’s ability to sponsor their partner, it would in theory be necessary to reduce the annual income threshold to £15,550 for British women and raise it to £24,600 for British men. Given the conceptual problems with such an approach, we also explore whether there are other ways to reduce the indirect discriminatory effects of the threshold. Specifically, we show that the practice of not accounting for the potential earnings of the non-EEA spouse in the UK when considering visa applications likely penalises women more than men.
Sumption, M. & Vargas-Silva, C. (2018) Love Is Not all you Need: Income Requirement for Visa Sponsorship of Foreign Family Members, Journal of Economics, Race, and Policy, pp 1 – 15, https://doi.org/10.1007/s41996-018-0022-8