Foreign spouse income requirement is ‘lawful’

family law

The Supreme Court has ruled that a minimum income requirement for Britons who want to bring a foreign spouse to the UK is lawful.

If a British person marries someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) they need to have an annual income of at least £18,600 before they are eligible to apply for a spousal visa. This would grant their partner permission to live here with them. The requirement was introduced by the former coalition government in 2012.

Since the rule was implemented as many as 15,000 children cannot live with their full family because one parent does not earn enough for the other to enter the country, according to the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Following a 2013 legal challenge, the High Court labelled the requirement “onerous and unjustified” but this decision was overturned in the Court of Appeal. Shortly after that the case was taken to the Supreme Court for a definitive ruling.

The couples who launched the Supreme Court bid claimed that their right to a family life had been violated by this requirement, something guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Justices admitted that the rule “causes hardship to many, including some who are in no way to blame for the situation in which they now find themselves”. However they said this “does not mean that it is incompatible with the Convention rights or otherwise unlawful at common law”.

Despite upholding the rule, the Justices did declare that one of its deficiencies was that it did not have “the best interests of children as a primary consideration”.

In 2014 the Migrants’ Rights Network claimed the current system meant that “a price has been put on love” because as many as 47 per cent of working Britons could not afford to live with a foreign spouse.

Read the full Supreme Court judgment here.

Photo by Terminal 5 Insider via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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5 comments

The Devil's Advocate - February 22, 2017 at 11:33am

Its all about money and nothing else. There are benefit claimants living in this “tribal nation” with less income and their children’s best interests are being maintained.
Go back to bed Judge Jeffries and come into the real world. Such families pecunary position may change today…then what.
Strange but I thought the Hague Convention on marriage was a legal requirement of Governments to accept persons in this legal union irrespective of income.

JamesB - February 22, 2017 at 10:06pm

I think its a good ruling and rule. An open door migration policy may have worked for the US in the 19th Century, but not for the UK in the 21st Century.

JamesB - February 23, 2017 at 2:51pm

Thinking about it, with the decline in family law work for lawyers, perhaps they could get into immigration applications more as this seems to be encouraging lawyers to appeal and apply for immigrants more and more. Personally, I did the forms myself, but is a demand for more and more lawyers in this area and more and more government laws to close the loopholes given the seemingly infinite number of people wanting to come to the UK.

Andrew - February 26, 2017 at 3:14pm

I would be willing to waive the rule altogether if there were an effective arrangement under which if the spouse becomes a charge on public finds s/he leaves immediately and without appeal. Immediately as in on the next flight to the country concerned.
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But as I cannot see that happening I have to agree with the rule.

Nick - March 12, 2017 at 1:08am

It’s really similar to the jealously obtained new car. After years of putting up with declining performance, piston slap, special irks to change gears, dents in bodywork, blemishes, colour mismatches etcyou decide to go to the garage and bring back a new model. So after years of marriage you pop over to Thailand and bring back a shiny new young wife!! Bet it’s a woman that drafted the legislation.

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