New rules for family migration – unrealistic specified documents

20 July 2012

A few of us from the immigration team recently attended the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) event on “The new family migration rules: dividing families, disrupting integration”, which was hosted at the Houses of Parliament. The event was well attended but the discussion was unfortunately somewhat unfocussed, and the issue of how practitioners and applicants will deal with the changes to the family rules (which came into force on 9 July 2012) in practice, was not discussed.

Let us get things into perspective; the requirement that those who are British or settled in the UK have to show that they can support their spouse before they can bring them to the UK is not controversial. This was already a requirement of the previous rules, which required the sponsor to be able to demonstrate that they could accommodate and maintain their spouse ‘without recourse to public funds’.

What is controversial, however, is the specific sum of £18,600 that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has set as the income threshold you have to meet in order to sponsor your partner to come to the UK. Furthermore, the list of ‘specified documents’ which the UKBA will accept as evidence of your income has come into question as it can lead to a situation whereby a British national earning £18,600 per annum, yet with large credit card and/or student debt, can in fact sponsor their partner but a British national completing a PhD with savings of £30,000 and who owns their house outright, cannot do so.

These new rules also beg the question - why can the UKBA not take into account the income of the partner who hopes to come to the UK? Think for example of the US national husband, who is the breadwinner, and his British wife, who have been living together in Dubai for the last few years and now hope to relocate to the UK. The new rules would require the British wife to come to the UK and get a job earning at least £18,600 per annum, six months before she could bring her husband over, despite her husband having a six figure salary job lined up in the UK.  Failing this, the couple would have to prove that they have £62,500 in savings (more if they had children).

So, is there a way to work around these new rules for someone sponsoring a partner who does not fit into the UKBA’s ‘specified’ life circumstances? Yes, there are ways to make it work, but it requires adequate planning and we would suggest that you seek advice early.

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