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Minimum Income Requirement for Spouse Visas Ruled ‘Lawful’

The requirement for UK citizens to have a minimum income before being allowed to sponsor their spouse’s visa has been ruled ‘lawful’ by the Court of Appeal.

In 2012, a Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) policy was introduced by the UK Government, meaning that only British citizens, or those having obtained refugee status, earning £18,600 or more per annum can sponsor their non-European spouse’s visa. For families with a child, the MIR rises to £22,400 per annum with a further £2,400 added for each child thereafter.

The MIR policy was challenged by two British citizens, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, on the basis it was discriminatory and also that it interfered with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a private and family life. The High Court agreed, at least in part, holding that that the financial requirements were ‘unjustified’ and ‘a disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship’.

However, in upholding an appeal by Home Secretary, Theresa May, three Court of Appeal judges took the view that the Government had carried out appropriate analysis prior to implementing the financial policy and it was not the place of the court to impose its own view on what the minimum income threshold should be, unless it was irrational, unjust or unfair. The Court of Appeal therefore ruled the High Court decision ‘was not correct’ and that the MIR was indeed lawful.

The ruling has been met with varying opinion.

Commenting on the Court of Appeal’s decision, Migrants Rights Network Policy Director, Ruth Grove-White said:

“Many UK residents and British citizens have had their lives put on hold for over a year, often with no chance of seeing their loved husbands, wives or children during that time.”

“These rules are a shocking infringement of the right to family life, as almost half of the UK working population earns below the required amount,” she added.

Ms Grove-White concluded: “Today’s judgment is not the end of the story. We will keep campaigning for rules that respect the right of UK residents to live with their family, and hope that government will see sense and make the changes that are needed to protect these rights.”

Similarly, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, Paul Blomfield MP, said:

“Today’s Court of Appeal judgment will come as a disappointment for the thousands of families across the UK who remain apart as a result of these rules.”

Speaking favourably on the ruling, James Brokenshire, Immigration and Security Minister stated:

“We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established in the UK at the taxpayer’s expense and family migrants must be able to integrate. The minimum income threshold to sponsor family migrants is delivering these objectives and this judgment recognises the important public interest it serves.”

Following the ruling, solicitors and barristers representing families affected by the Minimum Income Requirement policy have sought leave to appeal.

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