Plans to set an earnings threshold for people wanting to bring their husband or wife to live with them from outside the EU will mean many families missing out on being with loved ones because the average salary is below the needed income level, an MP has warned.

Bradford East Lib Dem MP David Ward said the move was nothing more than “backdoor immigration control” and said the Government should be honest about why it was introducing the policy. Under proposals by Home secretary Theresa May, any Briton who wants to marry a non-EU citizen will have to be earning at least £18,600 a year if they want to bring their spouse to live with them in the UK.

In cases where the foreign-born spouse has children, their British partner would have to earn £22,400 or more, plus £2,400 for each additional child.

Mr Ward said the move will hit hard many residents in areas like Bradford where 21 per cent of households have incomes of less than £15,000 per year.

He has tabled a Commons motion, demanding the Government re-think its policy claiming the right to a family life should not be contingent on earnings.

Mr Ward said: “This is just crazy. It is quite clearly designed as a way of controlling immigration. The levels being set are way beyond the reach of most people in Bradford and that is why government has done it.

“It is a concerted effort to stop people marrying who they want to marry and coming to this country. I wish government had been honest about it and not gone about it in an underhand way by setting an income limit.”

The changes, which came into force yesterday, are aimed at preventing lower-paid Britons from bringing in husbands or wives who will effectively be dependant on state benefits as soon as they arrive in the UK. Mr Ward said immigration had important benefits.

Mrs May said: “We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.”