17 July 2014 #Immigration
On Friday 11 July 2014 the Court of Appeal finally handed down its judgment in MM (Lebanon) and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department and another  EWCA Civ 985.
The appeals were originally heard four months ago in March and the case concerns one aspect of the Home Secretary’s controversial rules on family migration introduced in July 2012.
Under the new rules introduced two years ago a minimum income threshold was introduced that requires British Citizens or partners lawfully settled in the UK to show that they have an income of at least £18,600 a year for sponsoring a foreign spouse or partner from outside the European Economic Area to join them in the UK, increasing to £22,400 for also sponsoring a child with an additional £2,400 for each further child.
The new rules have been divisive from the outset but as the implications of the changes imposed in July 2012 have now begun to fully take effect across all the various changes some two years later, it has now become apparent that a large number of British Citizens and individuals with lawful permanent residence in the UK are unable to meet the income threshold.
Despite the controversy the Court of Appeal has decided that the income requirements are lawful. The judgment is lengthy at 174 paragraphs but in the Court’s opinion it was enough for the Secretary of State to have a “rational belief” that the policy intended by the requirements would achieve the identified aim.
“The Secretary of State does not have to have "irrefutable empirical evidence" that the individual features of the policy proposed will achieve the social aim intended. It is enough that she should have a rational belief that the policy will, overall, achieve the identified aim”.
The Home Office reiterated this aim in its press release on 11 July in response to the judgment stating that “[i]t aims to ensure that family migrants do not become reliant on the taxpayer for financial support and are able to integrate effectively”.
After the appeals were heard in March this year, decisions in any applications that would fall to be refused for failing to meet the new rules were put on hold while the Court of Appeal’s decision was outstanding. In practice this has meant that thousands of British Citizens or lawful permanent UK residents have been separated from spouses, partners and/or their children pending the judgment.
In its press release the Home Office confirmed that applications that had been on hold will now be decided.
“The judgment will mean that, from the 28 July, the 4,000 individuals whose applications are currently on hold, pending this judgment, will now receive a decision. These are cases which met all the requirements apart from the minimum income threshold and now stand to be refused”.
It is expected that this will not be the final word on the matter with the case likely to eventually reach the Supreme Court following the Home Office’s successful appeal.