On Friday, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Home Office’s £18,600 minimum income threshold, rejecting a legal challenge by three UK citizens to sponsor their foreign-born spouses to live with them in the UK.
At its core, the ruling means that the 3,641 families whose applications have been on hold since 5 July 2013 now stand to be refused by the Home Office. This is because they did not meet the income requirement for UK citizens sponsoring their foreign spouses and children to live with them in the UK.
This is problematic, says Philip Gamble, Founder and Senior Partner of Philip Gamble & Partners, when you consider that many people in the UK earn closer to £13,000, particularly where part-time work is concerned or even with full-time employment where the salary is close to minimum wage.
Says Gamble: “It is not possible to restrict the ability of a British Citizen to claim welfare benefits for family members in the UK regardless of the immigration status of the family member concerned. Therefore, the UK has a position where theoretically, new entrants to the country being the family members of British Citizens can become a burden on the State unless the higher maintenance threshold of the income at £18,600 is enforced.”
James Brokenshire, Immigration and Security Minister, is “delighted that the Court of Appeal has comprehensively upheld the lawfulness of this important policy…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 in the UK at the taxpayer’s expense and family migrants must be able to integrate. The minimum income threshold to sponsor family migrants is delivering these objectives and this judgment recognises the important public interest it serves.”
Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants Rights Network and advocate for the more than 4,000 families affected by the ruling, believes the ruling is “devastating for the families who continue to be needlessly separated across borders.”
Thousands of UK residents and British citizens, says Grove-White, “have had their lives put on hold for over a year, often with no chance of seeing their loved husbands, wives or children during that time…These rules are a shocking infringement of the right to family life, as almost half of the UK working population earns below the required amount. Being able to start a family in your own country should not be subject to the amount of money you make.”
Although the outcome of individual cases is not yet known, the Home Office has made its objective abundantly clear: From Monday 28 July 2014, the families whose applications have been put on hold up until now will finally “receive a decision…These are cases which met all the requirements apart from the minimum income threshold and now stand to be refused.”
Grove-White, for one, is determined to keep fighting: “Today’s judgment is not the end of the story. We will keep campaigning for rules that respect the right of UK residents to live with their family, and hope that government will see sense and make the changes that are needed to protect these rights.”