Christians concerned about changes to financial threshold for foreign spouses and workers

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Concerns have been expressed about the impact on churches and families of changes to the financial threshold for foreign workers and spouses coming to the UK. 

Home Secretary James Cleverly announced on Monday that the minimum salary for skilled overseas workers is rising by almost 50 per cent, from £26,200 to £37,800. 

The government confirmed on Tuesday that there will be no exemption for church workers after a question was raised by the Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, in the House of Lords. 

"Many faith communities greatly benefit from the presence of religious workers from overseas," the bishop said. 

"The Church of England benefits from the ministry of clergy from all around the Anglican Communion, enriching our communities and resourcing individuals' ministry for life, often equipping them for when they return to their country of origin to minister in places of conflict and abject poverty.

"Many UK clergy, me included, have benefited from overseas experiences.

"Will the Minister consult faith communities about exemptions for religious workers, many of whom earn below the published threshold?"

Lord Sharpe, answering on behalf of the government, said that the new threshold was "not unfair". 

"Of course, there is no barrier to recruiting people to the church, as long as £38,700 is paid to them," he said. 

"I do not think that unreasonable, I am afraid. I appreciate that salaries may not be as high in the Church as he might like, never mind the rest of his colleagues, but that is the median salary, as I said earlier, and it is not unfair."

In similar changes for family visas, the minimum income level to bring a foreign spouse to the UK is being increased from the current £18,600 to £38,700.

Commenting on X, formerly Twitter, Operation Noah board member Hannah Malcolm said, "My granny migrated from North Cyprus and was an NHS nurse. Met my granddad (a doctor). 3 of their children are NHS workers. Of my siblings, 3 are/have been NHS workers. 2 of us married foreigners. My baby was born. All this life-building love would be impossible under new rules." 

Vanessa Conant, Team Rector at St Mary's Church Walthamstow, said, "I can't stop thinking about the people who will be separated by this new ruling - the children parted from parents, the cruel and unnecessary heartbreak, the primary impact being on people with lower incomes. I hope the Conservatives U-turn on this."