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Supreme court rules to uphold minimum income threshold for foreign spouses

by John Dunn | Mar 01, 2017
  • On Wednesday 22 February, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that the government will uphold the £18,600 minimum income threshold for British citizens wanting to bring their foreign spouses to the country. It did, however, acknowledge that the implementation of the rule requires amendment.

    Breaking families apart

    The minimum income threshold was introduced in 2012 to ensure that immigrants do not draw on public welfare funds while they are in the UK. Prior to 2012, couples only had to show they could support themselves without the use of public funds.

    The threshold has recently caused an outcry, with many claiming that it is unreasonably high.

    According to a statement released by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, an estimated 15,000 children, most of whom are British citizens, are separated from one parent as a result of the threshold.

    In 2015, it was estimated that the threshold excludes 41% of the British working population from bringing a foreign spouse to live in Britain.

    In a series of test cases, couples have challenged the rules, claiming that they breach the human right to a family life. The Supreme Court ruled that the threshold does not breach any human rights, but that the implementation of the rules and instructions require amendment.  

    Hope for future changes

    The court acknowledged that the rules did not take proper account of the best interests of any children involved as well as the need for amendments. The Justices of the Supreme Court stated that the income threshold “causes hardship to many thousands of couples, including some who are in no way to blame for the situation in which they find themselves”.

    Advocacy groups for migrants’ rights have said that, even though the income threshold was upheld, the results of the ruling have given hope to families divided by the current rules.

    A Home Office spokesperson has said that they are carefully considering what the court has said in relation to cases where the income threshold has not been met, particularly where the case involves a child.

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