Minimum income threshold for UK visas under fire – Economic Times

Campaigners have threatened a legal challenge against the UK government for failing to act on the Supreme Court's ruling to prevent hardship on children as a result of minimum income requirements for its citizens to bring in their foreign spouses from countries like India.

British citizens must earn more than 18,600 pounds a year before a husband or wife from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), including countries like India, can settle in the UK.

This figure rises to 22,400 pounds for couples with a child and then 2,400 pounds more for each additional child.

The rule had been introduced in 2012 to prevent foreign spouses becoming reliant on UK taxpayer supported public funds.

A Supreme Court ruling earlier this year had held the rules to be broadly "legitimate" but concluded that the instructions require amendment in relation to the duty of care towards children who may suffer due to a missing parent.

The UK Home Office has now been accused of not doing enough to amend the rules as part of its Statement of Changes introduced earlier this month.

"Our research, submitted to the Supreme Court, shows the heart-breaking long-term trauma inflicted on children in this position. The new rules issued are not clearly written and the government is still sitting on the guidance that will tell us how they will actually be implemented," said Chai Patel, the Indian-origin legal director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).

"JCWI will be closely monitoring the implementation of these new rules in August and stands ready to challenge any further illegality," he said.

The changes announced by the UK Home Office, set to take effect from August 10, allow for consideration of other sources of income and recourse to public funds in certain cases.

While the exact numbers affected by the minimum income threshold remains unclear, it is likely that some Indians are also among the nationalities affected by the 18,600-pound a year earning criteria for a British national to sponsor his or her foreign spouse to live in Britain.

The Supreme Court case earlier this year had been brought by a group of affected couples, including two of Pakistani- origin who were being unable to bring their spouses from Pakistan.

Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed were joined by a Lebanese refugee who could not find suitable work in the UK despite his post-graduate qualifications and could not bring his wife, and a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose wife has been barred from settling in the UK.

The policy had been introduced by British Prime Minister Theresa May during her term as Home Secretary under the David Cameron led government.

A report released in 2015 had warned that the threshold was creating "Skype families", forcing children to communicate with one parent based overseas only through social media.

"The threshold is too high and is discriminatory. British citizens who have lived and worked abroad and formed long-term relationships abroad are particularly penalised and find it very difficult to return to the UK," the report titled 'Family Friendly?' had said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "In February, the Supreme Court endorsed our approach in setting an income threshold for family migration that prevents burdens being placed on taxpayers and ensures migrant families can integrate into our communities.

This is central to building an immigration system that works in the national interest.

"The changes in immigration rules do not affect this underlying policy, but instead address the court's findings in respect of exceptional circumstances and of our existing statutory duty to consider a child's best interests."

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