London, Jun 10 - Only those British nationals or residents with an annual income of at least Rs 16 lakhs will be able to bring spouses from the Indian sub-continent and other countries outside the European Union from July 9, the government announced today.
The new restrictions are part of the David Cameron government's efforts to reduce migration from outside the EU.
The curbs on non-EU spouses are also intended to clamp down on bogus marriages and family visas, with migrants ending up on benefits from the taxpayer.
Home secretary Theresa May today said: "Like the rest of the immigration system, family visas have not been regulated properly for years."
"There have been sham marriages, people have been allowed to come to Britain without being able to speak English and there haven't been rules in place to stop people becoming a burden on the welfare state," she said.
"We're changing all of that. Our plans mean the thousands of people who wish to bring their foreign spouses, partners and dependants to live with them here in Britain will have to have sufficient financial independence to be able to support them without becoming a burden to the taxpayer," she added.
On the controversial issue of foreign criminals being prevented from deportation on human rights grounds, May said she would be seeking the backing of Parliament for new guidelines for the courts spelling out how they should apply the European Convention on Human Rights in such cases.
Besides the income threshold, other curbs include a longer period, from two to five years, before the non-EU spouse can be granted permanent settlement.
Sponsor of a non-EU spouse, will have to earn at least 18,600 pounds (nearly Rs 16 lakhs) a year and if they have a child the threshold will rise to 22,400 pounds, rising by 2,400 pounds for each additional child.
"I think it is important that if people are bringing people into the UK to create a family here in the UK that we say that you should be able to support yourselves and not be reliant on the state," May said.
Any British citizen or an individual with resident status will also have to sign a five-year undertaking that they can "maintain, accommodate and care" for their elderly non-EU relatives without access to public funds such as carer and disability allowances, housing and council tax benefits and winter fuel and cold weather payments.
The new restrictions have already drawn criticism from human rights groups, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), who see the curbs as an attack on the right of migrants to family life.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "Given the toxic nature of immigration politics in a recession, it becomes especially important to distinguish between abuse and criminality and anything that splits up genuine innocent families of British nationals."
"Any income based assessment of this kind automatically discriminates against women, retired people, disabled people, the young and many minority ethnic people," JCWI said.
"It is well known that pension levels and wages for these people are proven to be lower than average in the UK," it added. PTI