The Supreme Court has ruled minimum income requirements are lawful, even though they may cause families hardship.
A 2012 amendment to immigration law means Britons must earn at least £18,600 a year to bring a spouse from outside the European Economic Area to the country.
This number rises to £22,400 if the couple have a child who does not hold British citizenship and a further £2,400 for each additional child.
The Government says the rules were put in place to stop people moving to the country and claiming states benefits. Critics, however, argue that 15,000 children are separated from their parents because of the new rules, and a win would have meant thousands of people would have been able to move to the UK.
A number of couples appealed the income limits, saying it was a breach of their right to family life, which is protected under Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.
However, in a judgement handed down by Supreme Court this morning, the justices said the law was “acceptable in principle”.
Despite this, the court did say the rules hadn’t been fairly applied in their specific cases, partially upholding their appeals. In particular, they made reference to the rights of children and the importance of a proper assessment of the couple’s income.
Currently the rules do not take into account the potential of the Briton’s partner to earn their own salary, or if they could be given support from a family member.
For example, in one of the cases the British man’s wife is a fluent English-speaking pharmacist. The couple also claimed they would receive support from a family member to make up the amount.
It has taken the court more than a year to release the judgement. In 2013, the High Court previously ruled in the couples’ favour. Urging the Home Secretary to rewrite the rules, the judge said that they were “onerous and unjustified”. That decision was overturned at the Court of Appeal, leading to the challenge reaching the Supreme Court.
Read more on this case in plain English:
- Look at our infographic on Article 8, the right to family and private life
- Read the Supreme Court’s judgment and press summary