Zimbabwean Single Mothers Struggle with UK Visa Hurdles for Children

Tougher UK Visa Rules Impact Zimbabwean Health Workers, Straining Family Reunifications

by Adenike Adeodun

Zimbabwean single mothers in the United Kingdom are facing tough challenges in getting visas for their children due to new, strict immigration laws. The UK Home Office announced these measures last week, creating significant obstacles for these women trying to reunite with their families.

James Cleverly, the UK’s Interior Minister, told lawmakers that the new regulations, particularly regarding visa sponsorship by care firms, aim to stop the “abuse of health and care visas” and limit overseas workers from bringing their family dependents. The new rules increase the minimum salary threshold for foreign skilled workers from £26,200 (US$33,000) to £38,700 (US$48,800) and introduce reforms in the list of jobs exempt due to shortages.

These changes are already impacting single mothers, especially those who came to the UK on Tier 2 healthcare visas. Twelve women reached out to Women of Zimbabwe (WoZ), a women’s empowerment and advocacy group, for help with their visa issues. Patricia Chinyoka, a WoZ representative and UK-based political and human rights activist, spoke about the struggles these women face, including fear of retaliation from the Home Office, even under anonymity. Despite seeking assistance from Members of Parliament, many have found little success.

The high cost of legal fees for visa application reviews is adding to their difficulties. The Home Office’s “administrative review” process can cost over £1,000 (US$1,259.70) just for consultation, not to mention additional legal fees in their home countries. This expense is becoming unaffordable for many, who are already managing expenses in the UK.

These women are bearing a significant emotional burden. They are coping with both bureaucratic and financial hurdles to reunite with their children. In 2023, the UK issued 20,152 health and care worker visas to Zimbabweans, making the country the third-highest recipient after India and Nigeria.

The severity of the issue is evident in personal stories of visa denials. One anonymous single mother recounted how the Home Office refused visas for her sons despite her having sole custody and the father’s absence. Another mother faced visa rejections for her two children from different fathers, even after multiple applications.

According to a report by Newsday, legal experts and advocates criticize the UK’s strict immigration policies for unfairly affecting single mothers and harming their mental health and family life. The Right to Remain Toolkit, which helps navigate the UK’s immigration system, stresses the importance of considering children’s welfare in these decisions. Nonetheless, many applications are still being turned down.

Compounding the issue, high unemployment in Zimbabwe is driving a significant migration of skills to the UK. Economic hardships have led thousands of Zimbabwean teachers and healthcare professionals to relocate in recent years.

As economic challenges persist in Zimbabwe, more of its citizens are seeking work in the UK, a trend that underscores deeper economic instability and the urgent need for sustainable solutions.

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