High Court delivers ruling in judicial review challenge to UK Family Immigration Rules

Last Friday, 05 July 2013, the High Court passed down judgment in a Judicial Review challenge to the new UK family immigration rules which were implemented in July 2012.

Three claimants had challenged the requirement for British nationals seeking to sponsor their non-EU spouses and children to join them in the UK to demonstrate that they are earning a minimum income, which starts at £18,600 for sponsoring a spouse only and increases with each dependent child.

The Home Office policy was challenged on the basis that these rules were discriminatory and interfered with the claimants” Article 8 rights to a private and family life.

“An unjustified and disproportionate interference”

The court found that the new rules were not unlawful, accepting that “there is a legitimate aim that the families of migrants should be encouraged by the terms of admission to integrate, not live at or near the subsistence level and not be perceived to be a long term drain on the public purse in the form of increased access to state benefits.”  Mr Justice Blake did not consider that it was appropriate for the new rules to be struck out by the court.

However, he did conclude that the earnings threshold, when taken with one of other four requirements regarding funds which can be used to meet the income threshold, is “so onerous in effect as to be an unjustified and disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship.”

In response to the High Court ruling, the Home Office has issued the following statement on the UKBA website:

    ‘Our family changes were brought in to make sure that spouses coming to live in the UK would not become reliant on the taxpayer for financial support and would be able to integrate effectively. We’re pleased that this judgment supports the basis of our approach.

    ‘We are looking closely at the judgment and its likely impact on the minimum income threshold before we decide how to respond.  In the meantime, where an applicant does not meet the minimum income threshold and there is no other reason to refuse it, the application will be put on hold.’

It also confirmed that the Home Office has paused decision-making on some spouse/partner and child settlement visa and leave to remain applications while considering the implications of the judgment.

We will provide further updates as soon as they are available but please contact us if you have any specific queries.

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