When a summer romance can turn into a legal headache article banner image

With summer– the season of holiday romances – in full swing, some people who met their partners abroad and hope to start a life with them in the UK are in limbo waiting for a possible change to the immigration rules.


Image of a couple holding hands on a beach
Some families are split apart because they do not meet the strict requirements of the immigration rules.

Behind the often sensational tabloid headlines about immigration, lies the heartache of families split apart because they do not meet the strict requirements of the immigration rules.

Immigration rules which came into force in July 2012, set out the minimum amount that someone must earn before they can sponsor someone from outside Europe to come to live with them in the UK. The income threshold was set at a salary of at least £18,600 for the previous six months, rising to £22,400 for a family with a child and a further £2,400 for each additional child. If relying on savings alone, the rules state that you must have at least £62,500 in savings for the past six months.

The Migration Observatory has estimated that, based on these thresholds, 61% of women and 32% of men in employment in the UK would not qualify to bring in a family member.

Three families are challenging the income restrictions through the courts on the basis that they are discriminatory and interfere with their right to have a private and family life.

Mr Justice Blake described the policy as “onerous… and unjustified”. He said the court would not “strike down” the legislation, but urged the home secretary to make adjustments. The case is still on-going.

Until the legal challenge is finally determined by the courts, such applications will continue to be put on hold. Currently it is believed that about 4,000 applications have been put on hold since 2013 and it is anticipated that if the judgement of the Court of Appeal is not favourable to the Home Secretary, further appeal to the Supreme Court may be made.

As the end date of this legal challenge keeps being pushed back, those families affected who wish to withdraw their applications will not receive a refund from the Home office of their application fees.

As things stand, it is advisable that if you meet a foreign national abroad and intend to get married; you also have to consider meeting the immigration requirements in the first place to avoid being kept in limbo for an indefinite period of time.

An alternative for a British citizen is to exercise your European rights in another EU Country where your spouse will join you. Soon after establishing a right of residence in the EU country, you can bring your spouse into the UK under European law, because this income threshold does not apply in those situations.

Ruby Anugwom is an associate in the immigration team at Stephens Scown LLP in Exeter. Ruby has been recommended by the independent guide to the legal profession, Legal 500. To contact Ruby, please call 01392 210700, email immigration@stephens-scown.co.uk or visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk