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Family Life in Adult Dependent Relative Visa Applications

In cases where an individual is unable to satisfy the requirements of the Adult Dependent Relative Rules, decision-makers must consider whether the individual’s Article 8 right to ‘family life’ is engaged. However, a complication that arises here is that, even though two individuals are related, and might very well share a close, personal relationship to each other, family life is not automatically engaged or assumed. In this article, we will be exploring how the ADR rules consider ‘family life’ and how individuals could potentially show that family life exists between them and their relatives.

What is ‘Family Life’ under Article 8?

Before considering the substantive rules in Appendix ADR, it may first be worthwhile to explain that the right to respect for one’s family life is protected under Article 8(1) ECHR. An in depth explanation of Article 8 is beyond the scope of this article and, in any event, has been summarised in previous blog posts. However, it is worth noting from the outset that, under UK domestic law, as seen in Paragraph ADR 4.1. below, the scope of who can be an ‘Adult Dependent Relative’ is seemingly restricted to those who largely fall within the standard ‘nuclear family’ (I.e., Parents, Grandparents, Siblings and Children).

Relationship requirements in Appendix ADR

As the name implies, this immigration route typically involves an adult sponsor seeking to bring an adult relative to the UK (Both of whom need to be over 18 at the date of application, per Paragraph ADR 1.2.(d)). To that end, Paragraph ADR 4.2. and Paragraph ADR 4.1. of Appendix ADR detail the relationship requirements that each individual must satisfy.

Paragraph ADR 4.2. provides that an individual (the sponsor) who is seeking to bring an adult dependent to the UK must, at the date of application, be;

  1. A British Citizen; or
  2. Settled in the UK; or
  3. In the UK with protection status; or
  4. An EEA national with limited leave to enter or remain granted under paragraph EU3 of Appendix EU on the basis of meeting condition 1 in paragraph EU14 of that Appendix.

Likewise, Paragraph ADR 4.1., establishes that an Adult Dependent must be either the;

  1. Parent;
  2. Grandparent;
  3. Son or daughter;
  4. Brother or sister, 

of a person in the UK (“the sponsor”

Whilst it might seem intuitive to argue that family life would exist between a sponsor and any one of the four categories of relative outlined in paragraph ADR 4.1. the truth of the matter is more complicated than that. The starting point, as outlined in the Home Office’s Adult Dependent Relative Guidance 2023 (“The Guidance”) is that “the family life element of Article 8 is not normally engaged by the relationship between adult family members who are not partners”.

The notion that family life is not automatically held to exist between adult family members is also consistent with case law at both domestic and ECtHR levels. For example the Court in Britcits v SSHD (2017) stated;

Nor do I accept the submission that there is always family life which engages Article 8 of the Convention whenever a UK citizen with an elderly parent resident outside the UK wishes to bring the parent to the UK to look after the parent. Whether or not there is family life at the moment of the application will depend on all the facts as to the relationship between parent and adult child and its history”

Similarly, the ECtHR in A.W. Khan v. United Kingdom (2010) held that;

“In immigration cases the Court has held that there will be no family life between parents and adult children unless they can demonstrate additional elements of dependence”

What is considered to be ‘More than normal emotional ties”?

The case law is quite consistent in maintaining that the mere fact that two individuals are blood relatives is not sufficient, by itself, to engage family life under Article 8 ECHR. The position adopted by the guidance and the case law therefore begs the question, if blood ties alone are not sufficient to engage family life, what more must an applicant demonstrate? 

In the context of domestic UK immigration law, the answer to this question is set out in the case law and guidance. The key consideration which determines whether family life is engaged in an adult dependent relative case is whether there is something more than such normal emotional ties”, as outlined at page 18 of the Guidance. This alone does not give us much indication of what an applicant needs to specifically demonstrate in order to cross this threshold. However, the Guidance helpfully outlines some of the factors which a decision-maker will consider here. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the type of considerations which may indicate whether ‘more than normal emotional ties’ are present. These are:

  • The age of the applicant;
  • The health and vulnerability of the applicant;
  • The closeness and previous history of the family;
  • The applicant’s dependence on the financial and emotional support of their family;
  • The prevailing cultural tradition and conditions in the country where the applicant lives.

In combination with the guidance, the case law provides further indications on how the phrase something more than normal emotional ties is considered.

In ZB (Pakistan) v SSHD (2009) the court confirmed that when considering family life for the purposes of Article 8, something more than normal emotional ties would need to be demonstrated. The Court’s judgment goes on to outline that;

“But where, as here, the focus is on the parent, the issue must be: how dependent is the older relative on the younger ones in the UK and does that dependency create something more than the normal emotional ties? Although this court is not finding facts, it is indisputable that the appellant is an insulin dependent diabetic who needs to be cared for and who is either wholly or largely financially dependent on her family in the UK.”

Thus, it appears to be the case that an applicant’s dependency on their sponsor could potentially be an indicator that something more than normal emotional ties exist.

The Court in Vikas Singh and Maneesh Singh vs SSHD (2015) also provides a helpful summary: 

“[…] The love and affection between an adult and his parents or siblings will not of itself justify a finding of a family life. There has to be something more. A young adult living with his parents or siblings will normally have a family life to be respected under Article 8. A child enjoying a family life with his parents does not suddenly cease to have a family life at midnight as he turns 18 years of age. On the other hand, a young adult living independently of his parents may well not have a family life for the purposes of Article 8.”

It’s important to emphasise that judging whether family life exists is highly fact sensitive and will depend on the specific circumstances of the case at hand. 

What happens when family life is found to exist?

Where an applicant is able to demonstrate that the relationship they have with their sponsor involves ‘more than normal emotional ties’, this will be sufficient to indicate that family life exists and therefore, that Article 8 is engaged. From there, as explained in the Adult Dependent Relative Guidance, “the decision-maker must assess whether there are exceptional circumstances which would render refusal a breach of Article 8, under paragraph ADR 7.1.”. 

Although full consideration of ‘exceptional circumstances’ is outside the scope of this article, it is worth briefly noting that paragraph ADR 7.1. provides that if an applicant fails to satisfy all the suitability or eligibility criteria in Paragraphs ADR 3.1. to ADR 6.4. but a decision-maker considers that refusal would give rise to ‘unjustifiably harsh consequences’ which breach Article 8, an applicant will be held to meet the Article 8 ECHR eligibility requirement. However, this provision must be considered in light of paragraph ADR 7.2. which outlines the scenarios where an applicant must be refused for failure to satisfy specific suitability criteria in Paragraphs S-EC.1.2. to S-EC.1.5 or S-LTR.1.2 to S-LTR.1.6. of Appendix FM respectively.

Final Thoughts

As will hopefully have been demonstrated from this article, the concept of family life is an important element in Adult Dependent Relative applications. It is worth emphasising that family life under Article 8 is not automatically assumed or engaged and an applicant would need to establish that there is something more than normal emotional ties between them and their sponsor in order to overcome this hurdle and engage the family life provisions of Article 8. Whilst the guidance and case law mentioned above provide useful indicators, judging whether this particular threshold has been crossed will require a careful, case-by-case, analysis of the specific facts at hand.  

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