SUPPORTERS of British citizens who are barred from bringing their foreign spouses into the country because they do not earn enough demonstrated outside the Supreme Court in London this week.
Inside, seven judges were told that the regulation, which stipulates a minimum joint income of £18,600 — more if children are involved — would stop half the working population of Britain from bringing a foreign spouse to the UK.
The Court was hearing legal challenges to the rules restricting admission for partners from non-European Economic Area states. After listening to three days of argument, in four separate test cases, the Court was expected to reserve its judgment to a date later this year.
The Divided Families Campaign, whose members demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building in Parliament Square, as the hearing began on Monday, says that the Home Secretary’s policy is “obstructing family reunion for tens of thousands of people”, and breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, covering respect for private and family life. They suggest a level based on the national minimum wage of about £14,000.
Previously, a couple needed to show only that they could maintain themselves without relying on public funds. In 2012, however, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, introduced the “minimum income requirement”. It was overturned in the High Court, where Mr Justice Blake ruled that it was a “disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship”.
But in July 2014, the Court of Appeal found that Mrs May had struck “a fair balance” after analysing the effect of the immigration of non-EEA partners and dependent children on the benefits system, and “the link between better income and greater chances of integration”.
In this week’s hearing, Manjit Singh Gill QC, for the families, said: “It has been said that death and taxes are certain; for some it is also certain they will never meet the threshold. For many, £18,600 is completely unachievable. It is not like the case of the English-language test where you can put in so many hours. This is effective for life, for half the British population. Parliament cannot have intended the law to be used in such a way that it dis-entitles something in the region of half the working population from any possibility of being able to marry a foreign spouse.”