Skype is great for keeping in touch with people but what about if that was the *only* way you were able to talk to your mum or dad.

That’s the reality for at least 15,000 children who are separated from one of their parents because of rules on Britons bringing foreign spouses into the country, according to a report.

Since 2012, only those who earn at least £18,600 a year can sponsor visas for a husband, wife or partner from outside Europe. This rises to £22,400 if a child is not a British citizen or not settled in the UK, with an extra £2,400 per year for each additional child.

The restrictions have created thousands of “Skype families” in which children only speak to one of their parents over the video chat service, it is claimed.

A report published by the Children’s Commissioner for England said thousands of youngsters are in effect growing up in single parent families, with the majority thought to be British citizens.

Affected children are suffering distress and anxiety because of the separation, according to the research.

Skype logo
Children with one parent overseas are very familiar with this logo (AP)

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said the rules “actively drive families apart” and “leave British children able to communicate with one parent only via Skype”.

She added: “We are not talking about having unrestricted access but we need to put the heart back into this policy and consider the profound impact the rules have on this group of British children and their families.”

Research was carried out by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Middlesex University on behalf of the Children’s Commissioner.

A Home Office spokeswoman 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.

“That is why we established clear rules for British citizens looking to bring their non-EU spouse to this country, including a minimum income threshold, based on advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee.

Child plays with plastic letters
They’ll be able to spell Skype (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“The level of the minimum income threshold reflects the income at which a British family generally ceases to be able to access income-related benefits.

“The policy has been approved by Parliament, and upheld by the courts as lawful and compliant with our legal duty to safeguard and promote child welfare.”