Theresa May has announced significant changes to the immigration rules .The changes are part of the Government’s programme of reform of the immigration routes and follow wide consultation and expert advice from the Migration Advisory Committee. The changes include:

Overall, there are a number of significant changes for family members, in particular those seeking to bring non-EEA spouses and partners to the UK will face new barriers to their entry and settlement in the future. Based on news coverage and the Home Office website, it seems that the major changes will be:

New income threshold of £18,600 for those wanting to sponsor a non-EU spouse or partner – increasing to £22,400 for one child and an additional £2,400 for each further child. This falls short of the potential level of £25,700 which was on the table and which the home secretary was apparently pushing for. According to a study at the Migration Observatory at Oxford University these changes will mean that, of British citizens in employment:

  • 47% will not qualify to bring in a family member.
  • 58% of people aged between 20 and 30 will not qualify to bring in a family member compared to 35-45% of people aged between 30 and 60.
  • 61% of women and 32% of men will not qualify to bring in a family member. • 48% of people in Scotland will not qualify to bring in a family member.
  • 51% of people in Wales will not qualify to bring in a family member.
  • 46% of English residents will not qualify to bring in a family member.
  • 29% of Londoners will not qualify to bring in a family member.
  • The areas of England with the lowest eligibility are Mersyside, where 56% of people will not be eligible, North West England (53%) and Yorkshire and Humberside (52%).
  • Extension of the period before non-EU migrants here on a spouse or partner visa can apply for indefinite leave to remain, from 2 to 5 years. In addition to this the spouse will need to make an application for an extension of leave to remain after an initial period of 2 1/2 years followed by another application after the period of 5 years has been completed. This extension of the period of leave will cause uncertainty for families. During this period the spouse will not be able to access public funds but will be able to work.
  • Requirement that, from October 2013, all people applying to settle in the UK will need to pass an intermediate level English language test and pass the ‘life in the UK’ test. Currently, applicants can either take the Life in the UK Test or take combined English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and citizenship classes – the system is geared towards accommodating different skills in language ability. This means that the change will impact in particular those without strong English reading and writing skills.
  • Removal of the right of appeal for people refused family visas. However, leaked figures from the Home Office last year suggested that a high proportion of family visit appeals – around 36% – are successful. This suggests that the problem is not with the appeals system, but with the initial decision-making by the UKBA…
  • Restrictions on the ability of non-EEA adult and elderly dependent relatives to settle in the UK, limiting this to those who require long-term personal care that can only be provided in the UK by their relative here, and requiring them to apply from overseas. Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain for adult dependant relatives have been abolished. All applications will have to be made from outside the UK.
  • Removal of the 14 year long residence rule – the 14 year long residence rule will be abolished for all applications submitted after 9 July 2012. The period of leave to remain which is lawful and unlawful has been extended to 20 years residence before a person can qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain where they have had periods of unlawful residence.
  • It seems that the majority of these changes (unless otherwise stated) will come into force one month from now, on 9th July – but will only apply (with the exception of the increased settlement English and Life In  the UK tests from October 2013) to people given leave to enter or remain in the UK under these routes after that date. Find full details on the transitional arrangements and applicability of these new rules on page 34 of the government statement of intent.

As with most of the rule changes that have been made by the government the lives of many Non EU migrants are affected significantly before the rules are overturned in the Higher Courts of Appeal. JCWI have published a critique on the new rules before they were introduced It shows in detail some of the people who will be affected by the new rules changes.

It will be interesting to see the inevitable legal challenges that will be made to these rules. The “Free movement Blog” posted the following comment which sums up the reaction to these rules among the legal fraternity. “The Government is very likely to lose the inevitable legal challenges to this new rule if it interferes with an individual’s family life in a significant way and does so for a reason that is not one of the legally permissible ones. National security cannot be invoked here, nor can public safety or the prevention of disorder or crime. The economic well being of the country might be argued, but in reality Government policy on immigration is not an economic policy, it is a social and cultural one. In any event, the level at which the income threshold is being set is based on a snapshot short term approach to economics. It is well known that immigration always boosts an economy as a whole. The protection of health or morals might also be argued, as it could be suggested that the measure is about promoting social integration. It seems a bit of a stretch to say this is a matter of protection of morals, though.

Judges are usually slow to say that politicians (or their lawyers) are being disingenuous, but the explicit public statements already made on this issue will be hard to explain away. The government is cruising for yet another legal bruising.”Rule Changes coming into effect on 9 July 2012 affect non EU migrants and their families

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