Couples speak of pain over spouse visa rules

Supreme Court has ruled that Government financial measures which are hitting British citizens who want foreign spouses or partners to join them in the UK do not breach human rights legislation.

Seven justices at the UK’s highest court announced their decision on Wednesday in a number of linked challenges brought against a mandatory “minimum income” immigration requirement.

The cases centre on a measure that a UK sponsor must have a minimum gross annual income of £18,600 before they can apply for spouses or partners from non-EEA (European Economic Area) states to join them.

The Supreme Court has now decided that the overall scheme is compliant with human rights legislation, meaning that the £18,600 threshold will remain.

However, the court decided that the “rules and instructions” require amendment in relation to the duty towards children, and other funding sources available to the couple.

A further appeal is in the case of SS, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is challenging a refusal of entry clearance as the spouse of a refugee who became a naturalised British citizen, but whose earnings are below £18,600.

Immigration tribunals allowed her appeal under Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. But the appeal court ruled she had not demonstrated ”compelling circumstances” justifying the granting of entry clearance.

The Home Office has said that the aim of the minimum income threshold was to “ensure that family migrants do not become reliant on the taxpayer for financial support and are able to integrate effectively”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The court has endorsed our approach in setting an income threshold for family migration that prevents burdens 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.

“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.”