In July 2012, the UK government increased the salary requirement for a British person bringing a non-EU spouse into the UK to £18,600. If the couple have children, the amount rises to £22,400, with an extra £2,400 for every child thereafter. According to the UK charity BritCits, an estimated 47% of people working in the UK do not meet the financial requirement. Here, we will explore the current law including the Court’s approach and discuss how the current laws are ‘splitting’ families apart.
Financial Requirements: The Basics
Since 9 July 2012, the Immigration Rules have contained a financial requirement to be met by a person applying for entry clearance, leave to remain and indefinite leave to remain in the UK as the non-EEA national partner or dependent child of a person who is:
- a British Citizen; or
- present or settled in the UK; or
- in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection.
Unless exempt, applicants must meet the minimum income threshold of £18,600 (without dependent children). An additional gross annual income of £3,800 is required for the first child sponsored and an additional £2,400 for each further child.
UK Courts Approach
In R (on the application of MM) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1900 (Admin), Immigration Judge Blake J carefully considered the UK’s Immigration Rules requiring a minimum income of at least £18,600 for spouse visa applications and stated that they could constitute an unjustified and disproportionate interference with the ability of spouses to live together. He suggested that an appropriate figure may be around £13,400 and highlighted the position of young people and low wage earners caught by the higher figure in the rules.
However, the lawfulness of the minimum income threshold under the financial requirement was upheld by the Court of Appeal in its 11 July 2014 judgement in MM & Others  EWCA Civ 985. From 28 July 2014, section 19 of the Immigration Act 2014 reinforces the public interest under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) in the financial independence of migrants, to prevent burdens on the taxpayer and promote integration.
Case Study: Harshness of Home Office’s Application of Financial Requirement
In June this year, the Guardian reported on various cases highlighting the harshness of the Home Office’s application of the financial requirement. In one such case, Nicola McCausland, a British citizen married to Gustavo Penagos Rottmann a Guatemalan national, spoke out against the rules and said she made the decision to not go forward with her Masters in Hispanic studies so she could move to Guatemala to be with her husband.
Nicola, a final year politics and Spanish student studying at Queen’s University Belfast married Gustavo, a chef who was struggling to get a visa to stay in the UK, despite having several job offers. The couple had been together for 7 years and Nicola felt it was impossible to earn £18,600 whilst pursuing her postgraduate degree. Having rejected an offer of full funding from her university she stated:
“I have been depressed, having panic attacks and moments of complete and utter despair. I have trouble sleeping, and concentrating at work and in university. I feel constantly torn between my family at home and my married life with the man I love. I am angry at the UK Government for betraying law-abiding citizens in this way and, were the new family immigration laws to be scrapped tomorrow, I would not for a moment consider coming back to the UK to settle and pay taxes to its draconian government.”
The Public’s Reaction
BritCrit, the human rights organisation which campaigns on behalf of families with UK immigration problems, is of the opinion that the current financial requirement under the Immigration Rules is an attack on British citizens and that the rules “violates the sanctity of marriage.”
Steven Green, the Britcits spokeman states:
“Our work has highlighted the devastating impact of the rules on British citizens and their overseas families. This is particularly marked in the way the rules affect students: young people, making their way in the world, forming relationships and families while embarking on their careers, often struggle to meet the very strict requirements.”
Are you affected by the ‘Financial Requirement’?
The Home Office’s rules on financial requirements affect non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK under the family migration route. The rules define the basis on which a person can enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family or private life. If you intend to make an application as the spouse, partner, fiance(e) or proposed civil partner of a British citizen, you and your sponsor will need to meet the financial requirements.
If you would like to discuss how the financial requirement may affect you, please contact us today and our London immigration solicitor’s will be able to assist you by meeting with you and reviewing your case. If you have had a spouse visa refused on the grounds that you did not meet with the financial requirements, contact us so we can review your case.