Today marks the start of a Supreme Court case which will see the legality of the Home Office minimum income threshold rules assessed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the challenge made to these rules but the matter has been pursued even further to the Supreme Court.
The minimum income threshold under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules requires a minimum gross annual income of £18,600 (this threshold increases should you have children who are not British). It is estimated that approximately 15,000 British children are being separated from one parent or forced to grow up outside the UK because of these harsh and rigid Immigration Rules.
Prior to the implementation of Appendix FM, the financial requirement for family migration was assessed on the basis of adequate maintenance. In other words, did the sponsor earn enough income to meet their outgoings (i.e. rent, council tax etc). This was perhaps a more accurate assessment than the minimum threshold identified above. It was after all argued by the appellants that the Immigration Rules do not take into account the regional variations in salary, the difference in gender pay or even the earning potential of the foreign national spouse. A worker in North Yorkshire on £16,500 per year may have more disposal income than a worker in Central London who earns £19,000 per year. Yet under the current Immigration Rules, the worker in Central London is the only able to actually sponsor their partner into the UK.
With immigration continuing to be a political 'hot potato' will the Supreme Court want to put itself in the middle of the fight?
The Home Office said it was determined “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.The level of the minimum income threshold reflects the income at which a British family generally ceases to be able to access income-related benefits.” Sonel Mehta, the founder of the campaign BritCits, which gives support to divided families, said the government was keen to crack down further on family reunification because it was one area where policy was having a real effect on keeping immigration numbers down. “Families are an easy target, they aren’t big business or universities that can do big lobbying to get in students or workers from abroad,” she said. “You can’t replace your husband or wife with a British substitute if the visa is denied.”