Families being forced apart by minimum income threshold

22 July 2014
Under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules, non-EEA national spouses/partners and children can apply to settle in the UK with someone who is already there. However, there are concerns that the minimum income threshold set for applicants could be keeping families apart unnecessarily.
The rules state that the applicant must provide evidence that their partner (the British citizen) has a gross annual income of at least £18,600, with an additional £3,800 for the first child and an additional £2,400 for each child after that. Alternatively, the applicant must show that they have in savings at least £16,000 plus 2.5 times the difference between their actual income and the threshold.
These high thresholds are particularly difficult to achieve for those partners who have only recently been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK and permission to work here.
On 11 July 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld the lawfulness of this minimum income threshold for those applying under the family route. This overturned a High Court judgment from July 2013.
Currently, 4,000 individuals have family route applications on hold - these applications meet all the criteria except the minimum income threshold. Now that the Court of Appeal judgment has been made, UK Visas and Immigration will start reviewing these applications (i.e. declining them) after 28 July.
Lord Justice Aikens, who gave the leading judgment, accepted that the minimum income requirement does pose a very significant interference with the right to private and family life, moving on to examine its justification.
The income threshold is intended to safeguard the UK’s economic well-being, so Lord Justice Aikens assessed whether the threshold is meeting this objective. Several factors were investigated. For instance, the Migration Advisory Committee advised that this would be the minimum level at which a family would not need support from public funds. Even though this has been disputed, this aspect was a major part in the Home Office’s legal case.
Startlingly, at the March hearing, Home Office lawyers also made the contested claim that richer individuals will find it easier to integrate into UK society.
An appeal on the Court of Appeal judgment will be made to the Supreme Court but this could take many months, leaving many individuals with no option but to live in a different country from their partner or parent.


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