The new financial rules announced by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) on 9 July 2012 related to the minimum income required to sponsor a foreign partner, fiancee or spouse for a UK settlement visa. As soon as they were announced, the minimum income threshold came in for criticism as being far too high. At £18,600 for one applicant, £22,400 for couples with one dependent, £24,800 for couples with two dependents and so on with additional fees for every child, the level was out of the reach of as much as 40% of the working UK population and because of this, three individuals brought cases to the High Court on the grounds that the financial rules were unlawful and discriminatory.
The High Court’s ruling in July 2013 was not as clear cut as the litigants had hoped and left room for appeal, one of which has been lodged by the Home Office. The High Court was unable to summarily strike down the financial rules as they were essentially lawful, but it was at pains to point out that they felt the level to be punitive and the their recommendation was that the income threshold should be reduced £13,000 for one person with smaller additional sums for dependents. As being more closely linked to the amount earned by the average person in the UK this was a popular decision.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has put UK marriage visa decisions on hold in cases where financial considerations were the only bar to acceptance. This will affect some fiancee, spouse/partner and child settlement visa applications as well as further leave to remain (FLR) applications and only applies to those applications made since the High Court ruling. The High Court has not given a date for their judgment on the appeal and until then a substantial number of people continue to be affected by having their applications put on hold. For some, it has created an additional problem because if they wish to travel, they must close their application to be able to have their passport back, with the resultant costs because of the UKBA’s policy of not refunding fees.