Kept Apart

Couples and families separated by the UK immigration system

The UK immigration rules require sponsoring spouses to have a minimum income that is above fulltime earnings at minimum wage. In addition, the migrant spouse is required to prove a level of language proficiency. Waiting times for immigration decisions have lengthened and both visa refusals and fees have increased, resulting in lengthy periods of separation even for those families who are eventually successful. Those kept apart by the UK immigration system often do not know anyone with similar experiences. These families turn to internet communities for advice on the practical, bureaucratic, emotional and financial stresses involved.

This research uses co-produced poetry and illustration to explore the impacts of this separation, and how British partners separated from their loved ones live with the profound uncertainty of their situation.


The Brigstow “Creativity and Policy. Work in Progress” video below gives a glimpse into Kept Apart’s research process and findings. Hear the team discuss different approaches to explore immigration policies from the perspectives of those directly affected along side experimental partnership Scrutinising the Immigration System Through Collaborative Filmmaking with Refugees and Asylum Seekers. 

Research Team

  • Katharine Charsley (Sociology, Politics and International Studies) specialises in marriage-related migration, questioning the assumption of negative impacts on integration from spousal immigration.
  • Helena Wray (University of Exeter) specialises in migration law, particularly family migration and citizenship.
  • Emma Agusita’s (UWE Bristol) research interests include civic and participatory media, migration media and communications, and creative pedagogies and methodologies.
  • Caroline Combs and Paige Ballmi (Reunite Families UK) both have experience supporting, empowering and giving a voice to those affected by the family migration rules.
  • Rissa Mohabir (Trauma Awareness) has developed a training programme for trauma-related service providers and international trauma awareness resources. Rissa will contribute expertise in dealing safely with trauma surrounding this sensitive topic.


Brigstow Institute, Jan – July 2020

This project is associated with the MMB Challenge on Resistance, transformation, justice