12 July 2014
When the minimum income threshold for British citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor a non-EEA fiancee, spouse or partner to come and live in the UK was introduced in July 2012, it was roundly condemned by groups and charities involved in family immigration and a case was taken to court very quickly. The ruling on that first occasion was that whilst the new rule was not unlawful, there were certain elements within it, most specifically the level set as the minimum required, with which the judges were not comfortable. This gave the Home Office little choice but to appeal and it is the result of this appeal which has recently been made public. The Court of Appeal judgment upholds the lawfulness of the current financial requirement.
The Home Office Minister’s decision on minimum income was lawful
Lord Justice Aitkens found that ‘ There is nothing in the 1971 Act or the common law that grants a “constitutional right” of British citizens to live in the UK with non-EEA partners who do not have the right of abode in the UK and who are currently living outside the UK’ and went on to add that in his opinion the amount of work undertaken by the Home Office to arrive at a final figure was more than adequate to complete the task and that the Secretary of State for the Home Office’s judgment ‘cannot be impugned’. This judgment will have serious repercussions for the estimated 4000 families whose UK settlement visa applications have been on hold since the appeal was lodged last year. They are the cases in which the only cause for possible failure of the application was a financial one – the decision will be sent out on or shortly after 28 of July 2014 and it is expected that most if not all will be refused, unless the circumstances of the people involved have very largely changed.
What are the minimum income requirements?
Although the financial thresholds were not the only changes in the rules in July 2012 it was this that nevertheless caused the most adverse comment and so it was this that formed the sole element in the case brought before the courts at the time. In a nutshell, any spouse or partner wishing to be joined in the UK by a non-EEA partner would need to be earning a minimum of £18,600 a year before the application would be considered, this of course in addition to all other conditions being met. If there was a child of the family also seeking entry to the UK, the minimum salary would have to be £22,400, with an extra £2,400 being required for each additional child. These levels were set to avoid the family becoming reliant on benefits but were condemned as being unrealistically high, given the usual salary earned by people applying to be joined by a spouse or partner. The success of the Secretary of State’s appeal will have come as a serious blow to many who had hoped for its failure and it is believed that a further appeal to the Supreme Court is currently being planned.