In July 2012 the UK Border Agency (UKBA) announced new rules relating to the minimum income required to sponsor a foreign partner, fiancee or spouse for a UK settlement visa. These levels were set at £18,600 for one applicant, £22,400 for couples with one dependent, £24,800 for couples with two dependents et cetera, and were immediately criticised as being potentially damaging to family life. As a consequence, three individual cases were brought before the High Court which was asked to decide whether the new rules were unlawful and discriminatory.
The High Court handed down its judgment in July 2013 in which it stated that although it could not strike down the rules as they were not unlawful, nevertheless it was their recommendation that the income threshold should be reduced to something more generally affordable, in the region of £13,000 for one person. This is more in line with median earnings in the UK and was a widely welcomed statement. The Home Office was meanwhile given leave to appeal.
The appeal was filed on 26 July 2013 and until the final verdict is issued by the High Court, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will continue to put UK marriage visa applications on hold. This will affect some fiancee, spouse/partner and child settlement visa applications as well as further leave to remain (FLR) applications made from inside the UK on or after 5 July 2013. All applicants with visas on hold will be advised as soon as possible. There are disadvantages of being on hold, as anyone who needs a passport returned for travel will have to withdraw their application with no refund.
Critics of the threshold were cautious in their welcome for the High Court’s initial statement, despite being disappointed that the rule was not struck down. Because it was not unlawful, it was not in the power of the High Court to use its summary powers in this way, but it did give a fairly strong message to the Home Office, even going so far as to suggest a reasonable amount for a threshold, one much more likely to be affordable.
The High Court has not given a date for their judgment on the appeal.