Appeal court backs spouse visa change

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Changes to immigration laws which require British citizens to have a minimum income before they can sponsor a spouse's visa have been upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The measures, introduced in 2012, were described as "unjustified" by the High Court last year - but three judges on Friday upheld the government's appeal.

They said the rules were "lawful".

The government said it was "delighted", while campaigners said the impact of the decision would be "devastating".

Under the new family migration policy only British citizens, or those with refugee status, who earn at least £18,600 a year can sponsor their non-European spouse's visa.

This rises to £22,400 for families with a child, and a further £2,400 for each extra child.

The Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) policy had been challenged on the basis that the rules were discriminatory and interfered with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to a private and family life.

'Not correct'

In Friday's ruling, Lord Justice Aitkens said the 2013 judgement "was not correct".

He said relevant analysis had been carried out by the government before the measures were introduced and the judgement of the Home Secretary "cannot be impugned" in the case.

He added: "In my judgment it is not the court's job to impose its own view unless, objectively judged, the levels chosen are to be characterised as irrational, or inherently unjust or inherently unfair. In my view they cannot be."

Lawyers representing families affected by the MIR have sought leave to appeal.

Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said he was "delighted" at Friday's ruling.

He added: "We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established in the UK at the taxpayer's expense and family migrants must be able to integrate.

"The minimum income threshold to sponsor family migrants is delivering these objectives and this judgment recognises the important public interest it serves."

A Home Office spokesman said 4,000 people whose applications have been on hold would now receive a decision from 28 July.

He added: "These are cases which met all the requirements apart from the minimum income threshold and now stand to be refused."

'Protect rights'

Campaigners said the changes were a "shocking infringement of the right to family life".

Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants Rights Network, said: "Many UK residents and British citizens have had their lives put on hold for over a year, often with no chance of seeing their loved husbands, wives or children during that time.

"These rules are a shocking infringement of the right to family life, as almost half of the UK working population earns below the required amount."

She added: "Today's judgment is not the end of the story. We will keep campaigning for rules that respect the right of UK residents to live with their family, and hope that government will see sense and make the changes that are needed to protect these rights."

Paul Blomfield MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, said: "Today's Court of Appeal judgment will come as a disappointment for the thousands of families across the UK who remain apart as a result of these rules."

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