Jack Doyle, Daily Mail (London), September 15, 2011
Two-thirds of immigrants who come to Britain on a marriage visa have never before set foot in this country, it has emerged.
Every year some 40,000 migrants enter the country either to marry or to join an existing spouse–bringing with them another 9,000 children and other dependants.
An examination of Home Office files from 2009 revealed 67 per cent were coming here for the first time.
The research will raise concerns that many of those coming here to marry or to join partners have little knowledge and understanding of British culture.
It will be published today as Immigration Minister Damian Green calls for support for Government plans to prevent family visas being used to bypass immigration laws.
In a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, he will tell anyone attempting sham marriages or coming here to live off benefits that they are not welcome.
Mr Green will say: ‘These are sensitive issues which have been ignored for far too long but ones we are determined to tackle.
‘We want a system that lets everyone know where they stand and what their responsibilities are.
‘If your marriage is not genuine, if you have no interest in this country and its way of life, if you are coming here to live off benefits, don’t come in the first place.
‘That is why our focus is on delivering better family migration–better for migrants, for communities and for the UK as a whole.’
The research shows that around eight out of ten of those who arrived on family visas from Pakistani and Bangladesh in 2004 had settled here permanently within five years.
That compares to just one in ten family migrants arriving from Australia.
Worryingly, one in five of those sponsoring marriage visas were either unemployed or was earning less than the minimum wage, the research found. One in three was living with family members or friends and not supporting themselves financially.
Last night Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘A surprisingly high proportion of those granted marriage visas appear to be total newcomers to Britain.
‘An inflow of this kind can only add to continuing problems of integrating very large numbers of foreign migrants into our society.’
Mr Green will also condemn the abuse of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act–the right to a private and family life–by foreign criminals to stay in the country.
A series of outrageous rulings have allowed serious offenders to remain here despite breaking the law repeatedly.
Official figures show more than half the offenders who win their appeals do so using Article 8. Of the 162 cases lost by the Home Office in the last three months of last year, 99 were based on family life rulings.
Ministers are set to radically overhaul family immigration rules in coming months, including tough income tests for sponsors who want to bring in their partner.
They will have to show they have the means to support both their partner and any children or other dependent relatives.
New powers will be given to register offices to refuse to marry people or insist on a delay if it is feared the marriage is not genuine, and tough new ‘Mr and Mrs’ style tests brought in to guard against sham marriages.
Spouses and partners would have to wait five years, rather than the current two, before they could apply to settle in the UK permanently, and the same period before they can claim benefits.
Ministers also want to rein in Article 8 by making it explicit in immigration rules what weight should be given to family rights.