Family migration decisions on hold after court upholds challenge against income thresholds

New rules setting earning thresholds for anyone wanting to sponsor non-EEA spouses to come to the UK have been declared 'onerous and unjustified' by the High Court. The ruling means that applications that would be refused solely on the grounds of insufficient income are currently on hold.

The case was brought by three claimants who felt that the salary requirements were too much to meet. Whilst the High Court ruled in their favour the judge made clear that the rules weren’t illegal, but suggested the Home Secretary changes the thresholds.

The salary thresholds were introduced in July 2012 and require anyone hoping to sponsor a non-EEA spouse to earn at least £22,400. An additional £2,400 is required per child. There is no consideration for regional variation in salary.

How does this affect me?

The UKBA has paused processing applications which would have been refused solely on the grounds of the income requirements. In their own words:

‘The pause applies to applications made under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules where the application would be refused solely because the rules relating to the minimum income threshold are not met, including where relevant the evidence requirements in Appendix FM-SE.

‘The same approach is being applied to a small number of adoption cases which would be refused on this ground alone.

‘Applications which meet the Rules or which fall to be refused on other grounds, such as requirements for English language or a genuine and subsisting relationship, will continue to be processed and decided as normal.’

Detailed advice can be found on the High Court judgment on minimum income threshold for family migrants page of the UKBA website. Further advice will be published once a decision has been made.

The ruling

The judge found that he salary threshold proved disproportionate when combined with any of the other four requirements in the rules. For instance, with the current rules on savings and eligibility for income-related benefits, you can only use savings to replace the income requirement if you have £62,500.

The judge concluded that the combined effect is ‘so onerous in effect as to be an unjustified and disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship’. He went on to suggest a more reasonable salary threshold would be in the region of £13,000.

Various organisations such as the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and are pleased with the courts suggested threshold of £13,000. Whilst average salary figures suggest people are well off, the reality is that £22,400 is a lot of money for many people. It is hoped that the Home Secretary will reduce the threshold, allowing more people to bring their families to live with them in their home country.

Home Office response

A Home Office spokesman said:

‘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.’

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