The UK Home Office is denying visas to the children of migrant single mothers in the health sector saying there are “no compelling reasons” to grant them, according to an investigation.

An Observer investigation revealed on January 20 that the Home Office is systematically barring young children from joining their mothers in Britain despite extensive proof that the women working in the UK are their primary caregivers, bearing “sole responsibility” for the children.

The women, moved to Britain from countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, and India left their children—some as young as two—in the temporary care of relatives or friends.

They say before leaving they had been reassured by their employers that their children would be able to follow, in line with current immigration rules permitting healthcare workers to bring close family members. But when they applied for the children’s visas, the applications were rejected.


In refusal letters seen by the Observer, the Home Office asked the applicants why the children needed to come and why couldn’t they continue to stay with their grandparents or other relatives as long as they worked in the UK.

Some refusal letters by the Home Office asked why the child could not go to live with the father, even though their mother had sole custody or the father had not seen the children for years.

Some letters, addressed directly to the children, said, “It was your mother’s personal decision to depart from the UK and you have not provided sufficient evidence to grant your visa on serious or compelling grounds.”

Under an opaque policy condemned as discriminatory and “inhumane,” the government has decided to slash immigration by placing restrictions on the dependents of migrant healthcare workers.

Under controversial rules expected to be introduced this spring, care workers coming to the UK will be barred from bringing family members, while other health workers will have to earn £29,000 ($36,877) a year, rising to £38,700 ($49,212) in 2025, to be permitted to do so.

However, scores of applications from such workers are already being quietly refused. According to the Observer in the past 18 months nearly 150 migrant women, all single mothers, have had visas for children denied.

The applications have been refused under a Home Office rule that a child may only be given a visa if both parents are living in the UK, unless the parent living here has “sole responsibility.”

The policy means single parents are required to prove not only that they have sole custody but that the other parent is not involved in their child’s upbringing—something experts say can be hard to do.

If the sole responsibility threshold is not met, the Home Office can still grant applications if it believes there are compelling or compassionate grounds, however, it has declined to do so in the womens’ cases investigated by the Observer.

“My daughter asks me every day when her papers are going to be ready. I have to be honest with her and tell her: ‘I’m still waiting.’ She is only used to living with me. It’s really, really hard,” said Getty, 36, who arrived in Britain in March.

The Home Office refused Getty’s daughter a visa, saying the fact that her father had provided a consent letter was proof he was still in her life and could therefore look after her.

In another case, an NHS nurse who provided the Home Office with a court document proving she had sole custody for her two daughters, aged four and 13 was told there were no “serious or compelling reasons” why the girls needed to join her.

“It’s heartbreaking. How can I sleep at night?” she said. “I am the mother of the children and I have always looked after them.”

The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases. It said: “The sole responsibility rule is a long-term government policy and all visa applications are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with immigration rules.”

“We’re seeing a lot of pain and heartache for people who have come to the UK in accordance with all our rules,” said Sairah Javed, a solicitor at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

“It’s quite inhumane. It’s just another form of assault on family values.” (