Supreme court backs minimum income rule for non-European spouses


Supreme Court justices have unanimously backed Theresa May’s “particularly harsh” £18,600 minimum income rule for British citizens to bring non-European spouses into Britain that campaigners say has led to tens of thousands of families being separated.

But the supreme court ruling does acknowledge that the rule has caused hardship for thousands, and criticises the lack of focus on the treatment of children and the ability of Home Office staff to consider alternative assets when they assess the earning ability of the British spouse.

Lord Carnwath said he and his fellow judges had held “that the minimum income threshold is accepted in principle” but he added that the Home Office’s rules and instructions failed to take full account of their legal duties in respect to the children involved or to allow alternative sources of funding to be considered.

The justices ruled that current Home Office rules and guidance are defective and unlawful until they are amended to give more weight to the interests of the children involved. This could give limited hope to some of the separated families with children but the four families who brought the appeal will not find out whether they can live together in Britain until their cases are reconsidered.

The £18,600 minimum income threshold for British citizens to bring non-European Economic Area spouses to live with them in the UK was introduced by May when she was a home secretary in 2012 as part of her drive to reduce net migration below 100,000 and the ruling will come as a major relief to the Home Office.

It was estimated in 2015 that the £18,600 threshold excludes 41% of the British working population, including 55% of women, from bringing a foreign spouse to live in Britain. The threshold rises to £22,400 if there is one or more non-European-born child in the family. The income of the non-European partner does not count towards the threshold.

The ruling testing the legality of the family visa rules covered several linked cases. Two of them, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, involve British nationals married to Pakistanis; a third, known as MM, is a Lebanese refugee. A nephew of MM, known as AF, is also an appellant, as well as SS, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The ruling is a blow to campaigners who say the rule has meant British families have faced a choice of separation or living in exile. They have highlighted the plight of up to 15,000 British children who have grown up as “Skype kids” to keep in contact with one of their parents since the rule was introduced.

The supreme court justices acknowledge in their judgment that the £18,600 rule “causes hardship to many thousands of couples, including some who are in no way to blame for the situation in which they find themselves” but add that “does not mean that it is incompatible” with Article 8 of the European convention on human rights on the right to family life.

The supreme court also agreed that the income rule has “a particularly harsh effect” on British citizens who have lived and worked abroad, have married or formed stable relationships there and now cannot return home to Britain.

It is also particularly harsh for couples who got together before 2012. “Of particular concern is the impact upon the children of these couples, many or even most of whom will be British citizens themselves,” they add.

The justices also acknowledge that the rule “does present a serious obstacle to their enjoying family life together” and may provide a permanent obstacle to many couples because those earning less than £18,600 are unlikely to amass sufficient savings to make good the shortfall. Women and especially those from minority ethnic groups will be particularly hit because of the gender pay gap.

But they have ruled that the £18,600 threshold is a legitimate part “of an overall strategy aimed at reducing net migration. Its particular aims are no doubt entirely legitimate to ensure, as far as practicable, that the couple do not have recourse to welfare benefits and have sufficient resources to be able to play a full part of British life.” They say that, given that is a legitimate aim, it was not possible to say that “a less intrusive measure” should have been adopted.

Immigration welfare campaigners took comfort in the supreme court’s findings that the rule was causing hardship to thousands of families and that the interests of children needed to be reconsidered.

Saira Grant, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “This judgment is a real victory for families, especially those with children. For five years JCWI has been working with affected families and has been trying to persuade the government to abandon the family migration rules it introduced in 2012 because they are tearing families apart and significantly harming children.

“The supreme court has now declared this to be the case. These rules are unlawful as they do not safeguard the best interests of children. The strict requirement that only the sponsor’s personal finances can allow the £18,600 threshold to be met has also been discredited.”

She added: “The supreme court has said that alternative funding sources should be taken into account when a person’s right to family life could be breached. These are significant victories for families up and down the country. This judgment confirms that the government’s position is now untenable and they must now take immediate steps to protect the welfare of children in accordance with their legal duty.”

A Home Office spokesperson said the court had endorsed its approach in setting an income threshold for family migration that prevents a burden on the taxpayer and ensures migrant families can integrate into our communities.

“This is central to building an immigration system that works in the national interest,” they said.

“The current rules remain in force but we are carefully considering what the court has said in relation to exceptional cases where the income threshold has not been met, particularly where the case involves a child,” they added.

Marriage-related migration to the UK

Spouses are the largest single category of migrant settlement in the UK (39% in 2008, and 40% in 2009, Home Office 2009 and 2010), but the limited nature of research on family and marriagerelated migration has been widely recognised (Kofman 2001, Migration Advisory Committee 2009).

Whilst work in this area has been expanding in recent years, it is by no means comprehensive, and is characterised by a focus on certain issues and regions of origin, while others remain markedly under-researched. The majority of available research concerns South Asian populations whose migration has long been addressed through the lens of kinship.

Such ethno-national stereotyping of migration channels has led to the neglect of the important role of marriage in the migration trajectories of other groups.1 In this article, available evidence is reviewed to construct a much more comprehensive portrait of marriage-related migration to the UK than has previously been available, focusing on the largest nationality groups of migrant spouses.

The complex and varied picture which emerges challenges stereotypical views of marriage-related migration to the UK, casting light on the variety of processes involved, links with other forms of migration, and gendered dynamics. It also exposes the lacunae in this field, and the limits of analysis possible on the basis of existing research, providing new perspectives and cautionary lessons for policy making in this area.

The issue of marriage-related migration has been gaining increasing political importance across Europe in recent years, with considerable tightening of spousal immigration regulations in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands. In the UK, the issue has not received comparable political and public attention to date, but after recent public policy consultations (for example on the raising of the minimum age of spousal migration), the introduction of pre-entry English language requirements for spouses2 under the new coalition government, and a stated aim to cap immigration numbers, it seems likely that the UK will follow the example of its neighbours in seeking to tighten restrictions on spousal immigration. In this context, the uneven availability of evidence described in this article, and examples from recent British history and elsewhere in Europe, suggest a danger that legislation designed on the basis of partial information will have unforeseen consequences.


Capital Gains Tax liability

You and your spouse or civil partner are treated as separate individuals for Capital Gains Tax purposes. Each of you will pay tax only on your own gains and you’ll get relief only for your own losses. Although you’re taxed separately, you may be treated as ‘connected’ with each other and with each other’s relatives for certain purposes.

If you and your spouse or civil partner are living together, any transfer of an asset between you is treated as giving rise to neither a gain nor a loss to the person transferring it. Any amount actually paid is ignored. If the person receiving the asset later disposes of it, they’ll be treated as if they had paid an amount equal to the total of your costs.

If you’re not living together or the asset involved is trading stock, any asset transferred between you is treated as transferred at its market value at the time of the transfer. So, in these circumstances, the person transferring the asset may make a chargeable gain or an allowable loss.

If you transfer exempt employee shareholder shares to your spouse or civil partner the shares are also treated as transferred at their market value at the time of transfer but you make no chargeable gain or allowable loss. Similarly, any asset transferred at the time of death is treated as acquired at its market value at that date and there’s no chargeable gain or allowable loss. In general, a person who inherits from their late spouse or civil partner is treated in the same way as any other person who inherits on death.

Non-resident Capital Gains Tax

For Non-resident Capital Gains Tax purposes all disposals by non-residents of UK residential property must be reported using HMRC’s online return form within 30 days of conveyance of the property whether or not there’s a chargeable gain or tax to pay. This includes assets transferred to a spouse or civil partner. If a property was jointly owned each owner must tell HMRC about their own gain or loss.

If the spousal transfer is on or after 6 April 2015, the transferee is treated as acquiring the asset, but they cannot rebase as they have acquired the asset after 5 April (even though the non-resident transferee may have acquired the asset before then).

Assets held in your name

You’re chargeable to CGT if you dispose of an asset held in your name, unless you’re holding it on behalf of another person, such as your spouse or civil partner. If you’re holding an asset on behalf of your spouse or civil partner, your spouse or civil partner is commonly known as the beneficial owner and will pay tax if a gain is made from its disposal.

To decide which of you should return any gain and pay any tax, you should consider:

  • whether you and your spouse or civil partner have made a formal declaration about beneficial ownership using form 17, Declaration of beneficial interests in joint property and income
  • who provided the cost price and whether the asset was bought as a gift for your spouse or civil partner
  • who received the proceeds of the disposal

What counts as ‘living together’

You and your spouse or civil partner are treated as living together unless you’re separated:

  • under a court order
  • by a formal Deed of Separation executed under seal (in Scotland a deed should be witnessed)
  • in such circumstances that the separation is likely to be permanent

In each case the marriage or civil partnership must have broken down. If the marriage or civil partnership has not broken down but the 2 of you don’t live in the same house, you’re still treated as living together for Capital Gains Tax purposes.

Separation, divorce and dissolution

The remainder of this helpsheet explains your Capital Gains Tax liability if you’re separated or divorced or your civil partnership is dissolved and you’ve transferred assets to the spouse or civil partner from whom you’re separated, or to a former spouse from whom you’re divorced, or to a civil partner from a civil partnership which has been dissolved.

Year of permanent separation

If you or your spouse or civil partner were living together at some time in a tax year, you can transfer assets between you at any time in that tax year at no gain or loss. There’s no requirement that you should be living together at the time of transfer.

If a transfer occurs between you and your spouse or civil partner after the end of the tax year in which you stop living together, there are rules to decide the date of disposal and the amount of consideration on disposal. These rules depend on your particular circumstances and the information you’ll need is the date of:

  • any decree absolute or dissolution of the civil partnership
  • the court order if the asset was transferred by such an order
  • any other contract under which the asset was transferred

Private Residence Relief

You may be entitled to Private Residence Relief on any gain arising on the disposal of your only or main residence. You and your spouse or civil partner can’t have more than one residence or main residence between you for the purposes of the relief at any time while you’re living together. (You’re treated as living together unless you’re separated under a court order, or by Deed of Separation, or are otherwise separated in such circumstances that the separation is likely to become permanent.) Following separation, the residence which is your only or main residence for the purposes of the relief need not be the same as that which is your spouse’s or civil partner’s only or main residence for such purposes.

Full Private Residence Relief will not be due where, as part of a financial settlement on separation, divorce or dissolution, the spouse or civil partner who has ceased to occupy the matrimonial or civil partnership home:

  • transfers an interest in that home to the other spouse or civil partner
  • the date of transfer takes place more than 18 months after the time when the spouse or civil partner last occupied the matrimonial or civil partnership home

The former matrimonial or civil partnership home can be treated as the only or main residence of the transferring spouse or civil partner from the date their occupation ceased until the earlier of the:

  • date of transfer
  • date on which the spouse or civil partner to whom the property is transferred ceases to use it as their only or main residence


Apply for a forced marriage protection order

You can apply for a forced marriage protection order if one of the following applies:

  • you or someone else is being threatened with a forced marriage
  • you’re in a forced marriage

The order will be designed to protect you according to your individual circumstances, eg to stop someone taking you out of the UK.

Get a forced marriage protection order

You’ll need to:

  • check if you can apply and get the forms
  • attend a hearing

Emergency orders

You can get an emergency order (an ‘ex-parte’ or ‘without notice’ order) to protect you immediately without the person you’re making the order against being involved in getting the order.

Download and fill in form FL401A.

Write a witness statement. Include all of the following:

  • what happened
  • that you want the forced marriage protection order to be made
  • why the court should deal with the application without notifying the person you’re making the order against

Write the following words at the bottom of your witness statement – this is known as a statement of truth:

“I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.”

Sign and date the statement of truth.

Take your form and statement to a family court.

Get a decision

The court will consider your case, including any risk of significant harm if the order isn’t made immediately.

You’ll get a decision about the order when you take your form and statement to the court.

Get help

Want to find out all about Forced Marriage?
Talk to our experts and get the right advice first time, every time.

How to apply

You can apply for a forced marriage protection order yourself or if you’re one of the following:

  • relative or friend
  • voluntary worker or someone else official who’s been asked for help
  • any other person with the permission of the court

Anyone can apply for a court order – even if you’re a child under 18.

Children don’t have to have someone to help them if:

  • the court agrees
  • they have a legal representative

After you apply

You’ll be sent a ‘notice of proceedings’. It’ll tell you the date of your hearing.

You must arrange for the person named in the application (‘the respondent’) to be given (‘served’) a copy of your application and witness statement. You can:

  • ask the court to serve the documents
  • get someone else to serve the documents
  • serve the documents yourself if this doesn’t put you in danger

Attend the hearing

Your case will usually be heard in private with you, the judge and your legal advisers.

You can get help and support at court.

You can ask for other help including:

  • separate entrances, exits and waiting areas so you don’t have to be in the same place as the person you’re making the order against
  • protection at court, eg screens around the witness box

Get a decision

The judge may decide:

  • that more information is needed
  • to make a temporary ‘interim’ order
  • to make an order which will continue until it’s cancelled or changed by the court
  • that the person you’ve applied for an injunction against must make an ‘undertaking’ (a promise) to do or not do something

You’ll usually get a decision about the order at the hearing based on your individual circumstances, eg you’ll get an order that stops your family forcing you into a marriage.

You’ll get a copy of the order and any other court documents necessary.

After the hearing

You can apply to change or extend (‘vary’) or end (‘discharge’) the order .

You must arrange to give (‘serve’) a copy of the forced marriage protection order (if you get one) and any other court documents on the respondents and any other person named in the order.

You must also give the police both of the following:

  • a copy of the order
  • a statement saying you’ve given a copy of the order to the respondents and anyone else named in the order

Take the order and statement to the police station nearest to your address unless you’re told otherwise.

Appeal a decision

You may be able to appeal against a decision if you think there’s been a serious mistake. You must get permission and you’ll usually have to pay a fee.

Thousands of foreign spouses to be barred entry to UK as income limit increased

Thousands more Britons will be barred from bringing their foreign husbands and wives to the UK, under plans in the Conservative manifesto.

The next Tory government would hike the minimum income requirement already attacked as “particularly harsh” by Supreme Court justices.

A further crackdown on immigration would also “toughen the visa requirements for students” – firmly crushing cabinet opposition to including students within the target to reduce incomers.


The current threshold to bring in spouses of £18,600, introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary, has been blamed for inflicting a harsh choice of separation or living in exile on British families.

Campaigners have highlighted the plight of up to 15,000 children who have grown up as “Skype kids”, in order to keep in contact with one of their parents.

The manifesto reads: “We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas.” But it does not set out a new minimum amount.

It makes clear that the move would be an attempt to help the Conservatives reach their widely-ridiculed target of reducing net immigration to the tens of thousands.

“We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union,” it says.

In 2015, it was estimated that the £18,600 threshold excludes 41 per cent of the British working population from bringing a foreign spouse to live in Britain, including 55 per cent of women.

The threshold rises to £22,400 if there is one or more non-European-born child in the family – and the income of the non-European partner does not count towards the threshold.

In February, the Supreme Court ruled that the minimum income threshold is legal, but warned that it had caused hardship for thousands of couples.

Labour has said it would scrap the threshold, stating it does not believe that “family life should be protected only for the wealthy”.

The section of the manifesto devoted to immigration also makes clear that trying to reach the target would involve a further squeeze on foreign students.

The True Cost Of Immigration

dependency Visa
We’ve all seen the headlines about the UK offering a ‘meal ticket’ to immigrants through the exploitation of our welfare state. The truth is however that most people entering the UK that are subject to immigration control, do not have any access to our public purse. In fact, unless they’re here seeking refuge or protection, they have to demonstrate financial independence to even gain access to support in the first place.

With Article 50 triggered, here are three hard facts about the true cost of immigration to the UK for those wishing to live and work here.

Restrictions and criteria

Non-EEA nationals must possess a valid visa to enter the UK and these visas are subject to financial criteria. For foreign investors and entrepreneurs looking to generate business opportunities in the UK, this criteria can require proof of up to £2m in assets in order to secure entry. Working visas are means tested, with skilled workers in well-paid employment more likely to receieve offers of a visa than non-skilled workers. Even love comes at a price — if a British citizen or person with an indefinite leave to remain wishes to bring a non-British national into the UK, they must first demonstrate a minimum income of £18,600 or savings of at least £16,000 in order for their loved one to be granted a visa. For more information check out Spouse Visa UK.

Even EEA citizens have restrictions on the financial support they can access. No means-tested benefit is payable within the first three months of residency, and then, only if they demonstrate a commitment to finding work and can pass a ‘habitual residence test’ which considers their likelihood of employment and the action they have taken to seek work.

Adding value

According to a University College of London report between 1995 and 2011 EEA immigration contributed £8.8bn more to the UK purse than it took out in benefits. In fact, since 2000 immigrants have been a substantial net contributor of more than £20bn to the UK economy at a time when recession was at its worst.

Another fact is that some industries and professions have been kept alive by immigration; including the NHS that supposedly is due to benefit in a post-Brexit world, or so the Leave campaign would have us believe.

Mind the gap

Immigration brings valuable human capital and vital skills to Britain that some estimate would have cost the UK £6.8bn in education.

As the UK continues to try and prop up its skills shortage in key areas like STEM careers, immigration can help plug the gap and help grow our fragile economy.

Whatever decisions are taken over the next two years with regards to the immigration question, there is no getting around the fact that the free movement of people — ideas, skills, money and culture — has had a positive impact on the UK and the rest of the world. We are a global community — let’s hope we can maintain that feeling even after Brexit.



Minor Muslim girls in UK forced into forced marriage

Forced marriage abuse

Minor Muslim girls in the UK as young as 11 are being forced to marry men living abroad via the internet notwithstanding a ban on forced marriage in the country.
Imams in the UK and abroad have been conducting ceremonies using Skype — so girls can be married remotely before “being put on a plane and consummating the marriage at the earliest opportunity”, according to Freedom, a charity.

The marriage is often conducted with the promise of a visa to the UK for their new husband, it said.”The reason is to curb the behaviour of their children when they become ‘too western’,” charity founder Aneeta Prem was quoted as saying by ‘The Sunday Times’.

“Once married, there is enormous pressure to get a spouse visa. The hope is the girl will visit (country of husband’s origin) and fall pregnant to make the union seem more legitimate before bringing the partner back,” she said.

In one case, an 11-year-old home-educated girl from London was married on Skype to a 25-year-old man in Bangladesh.She contacted Freedom in November after reading a book about forced marriage that her older brother was given at school.

“She hadn’t understood at the time but later realised the Skype call was a marriage ceremony. The plan was for her to meet her ‘husband’ at a later date and hopefully fall pregnant.In the meantime, she was at home learning to cook and clean,” said Prem, the author of ‘But It’s Not Fair’ – an account of forced marriage.

“We see cases from many communities  including those from Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, and Mormon backgrounds. No religion accepts forced marriage but some parents are using it as a method of control,” she added.Forced marriage was made illegal in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014 but there has been only one conviction and it did not involve a child.

Karma Nirvana, a charity that runs free workshops to raise awareness of forced marriage, said in a two-month period at the end of last year it had received 38 referrals from 14 schools, including 11 from one school in Birmingham made the day after it gave a presentation.
The UK Department of Education said: “We trust teachers to know what their pupils will benefit from most, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all approach”.


spousal visas – Supreme Court could knock down Tory anti-love rule

The fate of thousands of children forced to live apart from their parents is about to be decided by the Supreme Court. It will hear today from couples separated by an income benchmark on spousal visas. If it decides in their favour, tens of thousands of Brits on low incomes could win the right to live in their home country with their loved ones.

This is how the system works: with little warning the Coalition government brought in an £18,600 income benchmark for spousal visas. If a Brit married someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), they needed to show six months of that level of income to be able to bring them over to live with them. The benchmark was £22,400 if they had a child and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

The supposed purpose of the rule is to stop these spouses claiming benefits or generally demanding cash from the Hard Working British TaxpayerTM. But people on spousal visas have no recourse to public funds anyway. And the system is despairingly arbitrary. You can’t, for instance, include the spouses’ income. So if a millionaire marries a junior English nurse, he won’t be allowed in, despite the fact his presence would contribute considerable sums to the economy. Only the junior nurse’s salary counts.

You also can’t include third-party support, such a promise from parents or other family that they’ll offer help if the visa-holder runs into financial trouble. You can’t include property either, so retired people are forced to sell their property to satisfy these bizarre Home Office demands.

Anytime people complain about the policy, the Home Office replies that “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense”, but the restrictions go well beyond that. What the law means is that 43% of the British population is banned from living in their own country with the person they love, if they happen to be from outside Europe. As with many Tory policies, it’s people in the north, the young, ethnic minorities and women who are particularly badly affected.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Home Office, as it was advised by experts, could have set the income benchmark at the level of a 40-hour working week on the minimum wage – thereby allowing anyone to bring over their spouse if they were prepared to work. It could have allowed savings to make up for a shortfall in earnings, and included the spouses’ income or support from third parties. And that’s what the appellants are demanding: recognition that the system is so demanding, so inflexible and so arbitrary that it contravenes the right to family life.

The high court accepted this argument, saying the rules presented “a disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship”. The court of appeal didn’t, although it said the rules constituted “a total ban on the entry of non-EEA partners where the UK partner cannot reach the required minimum” and acknowledged “this ban could be life-long”. Now the Supreme Court has an opportunity to strike it down.

The Children’s Commissioner and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) estimated that “at least 15,000 children have been negatively affected”. These children often call their parents ‘Skype-mummy’ or ‘Skype daddy’. Researchers reported “stress, anxiety and difficulties for the children and their families.” It’s high time this cold-hearted policy was discarded, before it can do any more damage to children or their parents.


‘Absurd’ visa rules on income force UK citizens into exile, court told

UK citizens are being forced into exile by the Home Office’s “irrational and absurd” minimum-income visa requirements, with some couples having no hope of ever being able to live together in Britain, the supreme court has heard.

UK nationals must earn more than £18,600 to bring over a non-EU spouse, rising to £22,400 if they have a child who does not have British citizenship, and by an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

Seven supreme court justices including the court’s deputy president, Lady Hale, will decide after a three-day hearing whether the rules contravene article 8 of the European convention on human rights, covering respect for private and family life.

Opening the case on Monday in a courtroom packed with dozens of families affected by the rule, including babies in prams, the appellant counsel, Manjit Singh Gill QC, said the law barred up to 47% of the working British population from living with a non-EU spouse in their home country.

“It has been said that death and taxes are certain; for some it is also certain they will never meet the threshold,” he said. “For many, £18,600 is completely unachievable. It is not like the case of the English language test where you can put in so many hours. This is effective for life, for half the British population. Parliament cannot have intended the law to be used in that way.”

The supreme court challenge, brought after the case was dismissed by the court of appeal last year, has multiple appellants. Two of them, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, are British and married to Pakistani nationals; a third, known as MM, is a Lebanese refugee. A nephew of MM, known as AF, is also an appellant, as well as SS, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gill described the lengthy application process for a spousal visa, including costly appeals, as “torture” and impossibly complex for many families. The threshold is the highest in the world bar Norway, a country that has a far higher minimum wage that Britain, Gill said.

The aim of the minimum-income rule, as stated by the government, is for families to be self-sufficient, but Gill said the evidence was extremely uncertain that foreign spouses, who have no recourse to public funds, would be any additional drain on the taxpayer.

“An applicant earning £250,000 with a £3m property, where the partner is a British woman who is a full-time mother to children, would not be allowed,” he pointed out.

Referring to the so-called Surinder Singh route – whereby couples and families can move to an EU country for several months and re-apply to return under EU free movement laws, circumventing minimum-income requirements – Gill said the current law forced British citizens into temporary or permanent exile.

“The absurdity is quite staggering,” he said. “People being forced to leave the country and then come back. What on earth is the point of doing that? People are being forced into that situation and we are talking about British citizens – half the working population would face that absurd scenario. The gravity of the interference here [by the state] is particularly high.”

Gill questioned why the support of third parties, such as British relatives of the divided couples, could not be taken into account. “The other side say it is difficult to predict the continued support of third parties. One could say that the support of third parties may be more dependable than income from a job where a business may not tell its employers if it is struggling. It is completely irrational and without logic.”

The hearing continues for two more days with lawyers for the Home Office as well as those representing the children’s commissioner and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants will also submit evidence. A decision is expected within six months.


Families to challenge minimum income visa rules in supreme court

The families of UK citizens denied the right to live in Britain because of the minimum income visa requirement for non-EU partners are to challenge the rules in the supreme court on Monday.

They argue that they have been denied the right to a family life by the rules condemned by migrant rights groups and family campaigners, including the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, who has said rules are creating “Skype families”.

British citizens must earn more than £18,600 to bring over a non-EU spouse, rising to £22,400 if they have a child who does not have British citizenship, and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

Critics argue that the law, introduced in July 2012, penalises 43% of the UK population and means British citizens in full-time employment on the minimum wage cannot enjoy the right to live with their families in the UK.

The supreme court challenge, brought after the case was dismissed by the court of appeal last year, has three appellants: two of them, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, are British and both married to Pakistani nationals; and the third is known as MM, a Lebanese refugee.

Before the court of appeal dismissal, Mr Justice Blake had ruled at the high court that the financial requirements were “a disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship” and suggested a minimum income closer to the minimum wage would be more appropriate.

In September, research by Middlesex University and the charity the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found about 15,000 British children are either separated from one parent or forced to grow up outside the UK because of the rules.

In response to the the study, Longfield said: “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.”

Last year, the Conservative thinktank Bright Blue called on the government to change the rules, noting the “significant contribution millions of low-paid Britons make to our economy and society, as well as the value of having families living together in the same country”. It recommended family visas also be granted as long as the British partner had paid income tax for the past two-and-a-half years.

The Home Office said it was determined “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.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.”

Sonel Mehta, the founder of the campaign BritCits, which gives support to divided families, said the government was keen to crack down further on family reunification because it was one area where policy was having a real effect on keeping immigration numbers down.

“Families are an easy target, they aren’t big business or universities that can do big lobbying to get in students or workers from abroad,” she said. “You can’t replace your husband or wife with a British substitute if the visa is denied.”

More than 40 people from BritCits plan to attend the supreme court hearings this week, many of them who have sons and daughters forced to live abroad or have non-EU spouses cut off from their children. A ruling is not expected for a number of months.

Don Flynn, director of Migrants’ Rights Network, said he hoped at the very least that the supreme court would acknowledge that there should be more flexibility for individual cases.

“In any case I have ever been involved with, the Home Office has not once exercised any discretion. You have to earn over that amount or it will be refused. I would hope the supreme court will acknowledge that, perhaps draw up some guidelines for when that discretion should be exercised in order to make sure the right to a family life is protected,” he said.