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Family Migration Rules

Family Migration remains a priority area of work for our policy and campaigns team. Our current focus is on campaigning against the devastating changes to the Immigration Rules introduced on 9 July 2012, which barred almost half of the UK population from being able to sponsor a partner or spouse, and introduced a near-impossible threshold to sponsor an adult dependent relative to live in the UK. 

Building on our work over the past three years, including two reports and an intervention in the recent Supreme Court case challenging the financial requirements, we continue to campaign for meaningful Immigration Rule change and ensure that the right to family life is upheld by the Government and the courts.

Divided Families Campaign

JCWI continues to work together with Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) and BritCits in the Divided Families campaign, which brings together affected families, charities, parliamentarians and others to campaign against the 2012 Family Migration Rules.

Spouses and Partners (Spousal Income Rules)

Immigration Rule changes on 9 July 2012 made it far more difficult for British citizens and settled UK residents to apply to sponsor a spouse or partner to live in the UK, by introducing an income threshold of £18,600 PA before an application will be granted, with restrictive exemptions. The changes are contained in Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules. 

The income requirement has had a disproportionate impact on the ability of young people starting out in their careers, retired people, women with caring responsibilities, and those living outside of the South East, where wages are lower, to act as a sponsor. Since their introduction, JCWI has campaigned vociferously against the Rules and this remains a key priority area for our Policy & Campaigns team. See below for an overview of our work in this area.

Family Friendly? The impact on children of the Family Migration Rules: A review of the financial requirements

JCWI’s policy team, together with academics at Middlesex University, undertook a rigorous examination of the financial requirements of the Family Migration Rules and their impact on families, on behalf of the Children’s Commissioner’s Office. The 100 page report includes statistical and legal analysis alongside first-hand testimony from affected parents and children. The report details the devastating impact the financial requirements have had and continue to have on thousands of families, including 15,000 British citizen children. The report was launched to high acclaim at a packed parliamentary meeting on 9 September 2015 and received wide media coverage. You can download a copy of the report here.

MM & Ors v SSHD

The culmination of almost four years of campaigning and lobbying work and a three year legal battle, in February 2017 the Supreme Court handed down their judgment in the linked cases ofMM & Ors v SSHD and SS(Congo) v SSHD, which challenged the Minimum Income Requirement and its application.

JCWI intervened in the case together with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, submitting the Family Friendly? report as evidence of the devastating impact of the Rules on families. 

  • The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the consideration of children in spouse/partner visa applications is incompatible with their rights under national and international law. Specifically, the Family Migration Rules and guidance fail to fulfil the Government’s legal duty to have due regard to children’s best interests as a primary consideration in immigration decisions. The judges have declared these Rules and instructions to Home Office decision-makers unlawful in this respect.
  • The judges also ruled that, where the financial requirements are not met, further consideration must be given to alternative sources of income in deciding whether to grant leave to partners and spouses outside of the Family Migration Rules. 
  • However, the Court upheld the overall acceptability and proportionality of the £18,600 minimum income requirement in principle, and its compatibility with human rights legislation under Article 8, Article 12 and Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights (given effect in UK domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998). This was because the Home Secretary always has a discretion to grant leave outside the rules if strict application of the rules would violate a person’s human rights.

JCWI will continue to campaign and lobby in order to ensure that the ruling is implemented and all recommendations are reflected in the Rules and guidance, so that as many families as possible benefit from this judgment.

Adult Dependent Relatives

The Adult Dependent Relative (ADR) Rules provide for elderly parents or grandparents of permanent UK residents and British citizens to apply to join their family in the UK. Previously, parents or grandparents over 65 years old and financially dependent on their UK relative with no other family abroad were able to apply for settlement (or under 65 if there were exceptional circumstances).

Under the new rules introduced on 9 July 2012, relatives must demonstrate that they, as a result of, “...age, illness or disability, require long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks e.g. washing, dressing and cooking… [and are] ... unable even with the practical and financial help of a sponsor to obtain a required level of care in the country where they are living”. It is almost impossible to succeed in this visa category. Fit and healthy parents and grandparents cannot even apply. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration (APPG) has stated that this visa category has “in effect been closed”.

JCWI continues to campaign for the Government to change the Rules. We are following legal developments closely, while also considering strategic litigation to challenge the Rules.

Harsh, Unjust, Unnecessary

In 2014, JCWI’s policy & campaigns team researched and wrote a comprehensive legal report detailing the impact of these Rule changes on families and children. The report outlined how the Rules failed to meet the Government’s international legal obligations towards children and families, causing significant misery and harm. The report was launched in parliament in July 2014. You can download the full report here.

If you are in need of legal advice on any of the issues outlined above, please go to our Legal Advice page for information on how we may be able to assist.