The BBC’s recent focus on the issue of the minimum income threshold (MIT) for UK spouse visa applications is welcome. Despite an appeal court ruling in July that the current £18,600 earnings requirement is legal (overturning a High Court ruling made in 2013), and that questions of irrationality, inherent injustice or unfairness were beyond the court’s remit, opposition to MIT remains fierce.
The BBC report, which highlighted the plight of an estimated 15,000 children separated from a parent, pointed to the ongoing efforts of those affected by the current UK spouse visa rules. A further legal challenge to the limit, which effectively blocks the visa rights of spouses and children of those on low incomes, is to be put before the Supreme Court in 2016.
Under current legislation the MIT limit rises to £22,400 if a spouse and a child are involved - assuming neither of them are British or European Economic Area citizens - with an additional £2,400 required for each additional child.
The current situation concerning UK spouse visa requirements has given rise to what the government’s own appointed Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield OBE, has described as ‘Skype families’ with parents forced to try and maintain long distance family relationships over social media for several years.
The campaign, which to date has achieved only marginal media attention, can only benefit from the welcome exposure generated by the BBC’s reporting of this issue. Irrespective of the narrow legal argument advanced by Lord Justice Aitkens in his summing up of the appeal case in July, the wider arguments for the ethical and humanitarian merits of MIT are hard to justify. The Supreme Court ruling will be keenly awaited over the months ahead.