It has been almost a year since the introduction of new draconian immigration rules relating to family migration. We shared some of our concerns about the changes in a previous blog, ‘New rules for family migration – unrealistic specified documents’, and evidence would now suggest that these rules continue to result in partners being split up.

Some of the more shocking victims of ill thought out rules are starting to make waves in the media.

The financial requirement, intended apparently to reduce the risk of migrant spouses having recourse to public funds, cannot be said to be fit for purpose, as the following examples clearly set out.

  1. Mr X has been working in the UK for six months and would like to bring his wife, a non-EEA national to the UK to live with him. His annual salary is £18,600.

Mr X’s monthly take home pay is around £1,288. He lives in London and pays £1000 per month for a one bedroom flat. His monthly bills amount to around £200 and he pays £100 per month for transport. He relies heavily on his credit cards and overdrafts to meet his monthly liabilities.

  1. Mrs Y has been self-employed in the UK for the last six months and would like to bring her husband, a non-EEA national to the UK to live with her. Since establishing her consultancy business in the UK, she has been very successful. She has earned more than £50,000 so far and her accountant forecasts earnings of more than £100,000 in this first year of trading.

Mrs Y owns her home, a two bedroom flat, and pays £800 a month towards her mortgage. She lives outside of London and her monthly bills are £150. She works mostly from home and has no transport costs.

  1. Mr Z graduated from University last year. While at University he met and began living with his same sex partner, a non EEA national, Mr A. Since graduating from University, Mr Z’s parents have purchased him a flat in central London. There is no mortgage on the three bedroom property.

Mr Z and his partner live their rent free and rent the other two bedrooms out. Each room is rented for £1000 per month as the property is large and in an excellent location. The tenants also contribute to the cost of bills. Mr Z and his partner therefore have income of £24,000 per annum. Mr Z is currently applying for jobs (all within walking distance of the flat) and his partner has a job offer but cannot take it up yet because he has leave to remain as a student and cannot take on a permanent full time role. Both partners have now finished their studies and as Mr A’s leave is due to expire shortly; they were planning on extending his leave to remain as a same-sex partner.

Only one of the above applicants would potentially satisfy the requirements of the Immigration Rules if they were to apply to join or remain with their partner in the UK. If you were to guess, you would probably guess the couples in either the second or third scenario had the best prospects for success. However, it is Mr and Mrs X in scenario 1 who have a clear route to satisfying the Immigration Rules if they applied right now. This couple, I hear you cry, sounds the least financially secure with expenses that easily outstrip their income.

Pre-July 2012, this couple most likely would not have satisfied the old Immigration Rules. This was because assessing the financial requirements meant a careful consideration and reconciliation of income and expenses, a test couple number 1 would have failed. On the other hand, under an assessment of earnings and outgoings, both couples in the second and third scenario would have satisfied the old Immigration Rules.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, in her forward to the consultation which preceded the July 2012 changes, stated that ‘Families should be able to manage their own lives’. She was speaking specifically in terms of ensuring families can support themselves without recourse to public funds. However, what she has created is a system which results in families unable to plan their own lives, a system where families cannot even choose whether to be employed or self-employed without facing the consequences of months of family separation as a result.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has been reviewing the July 2012 changes. They have collected evidence from the public and their report is due later this month. We are hopeful that some of the public frustration with the Rules will feature prominently in the report. We wait with baited breath as to whether this will be enough to inspire change, given the Government’s single minded plan to reduce net migration by all means possible.

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, with successive changes to the Rules in recent months. These changes have, on the whole, marked small successes for an injection of common sense into the immigration rules but there is a long way to go.