UK Spousal Visas, Financial Requirements and Article 8 ECHR

UK Spousal Visas, Financial Requirements and Article 8 ECHR
UK Spousal Visas, Financial Requirements and Article 8 ECHR

Let’s start with the basics.  So what exactly is a spousal visa?

 

A spousal visa allows a British Citizen or “Settled Person” (that’s a non-British citizen with ILR or Permanent Residency) to bring a non-EEA spouse, partner, fiancé or civil partner to the UK for a period of more than 6 months.

 

The spouse will be considered a “dependent” as his/her right to join you is practically based on your own right to stay in the U.K and you will be the “sponsor”. [1]

 

Spousal visas are valid for 33 months, with the possibility of renewing it for an additional 2 years and 6 months.  The renewal of your spousal visa is known as FLR-M (Further leave to remain – married).

 

In order for the spousal visa to be issued and your spouse or partner to join you in the UK, you will have to meet the financial requirement of earning the minimum amount £18,600, before tax. In the case of your spouse and one child joining you, the minimum amount is £22,400 with £2,400 required on top of that of each additional child.[2]

 

This financial requirement can be met through different means:

  • Salary
  • Self-Employment
  • Pension
  • Non-salaried employment

 

Some of the additional means of securing the minimum financial requirement are, income generated through rent or share, maternity/paternity/ adoption/sick pay and cash savings which need you be at £16,000 and on your name and under your control for at least six months.[3]

 

There is no need to meet the financial requirement in case you have a benefit such as Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Severe Displacement Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, Bereavement Benefits, Armed Forces Independent Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.

 

It should be noted that the sponsor can get more than one benefit, as long as he/she can show that he/she receives enough money to support the dependent as well.[4]

In case that you don’t comply with the financial requirement and you are facing problems with reuniting your family, a solution may be possible either though Article 8 ECHR or Working Outside the Rules Applications.

 

Article 8 ECHR 

Artilce 8 of the European Convention for Human Rights stipulates that “everyone has the right to respect to his private and family life, home and correspondence” and that the public authorities are not allowed to intervene with the exercise of this right unless they are trying to protect the “interests of the national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, to prevent disorder or crime, to protect health and morals or the rights and freedoms of others”. [5]

 

Since British courts are not bound by the ECHR, how exactly can the citizens rely on Art. 8 when the financial requirement for the spousal visa is not fulfilled?

According to paragraph EX.1 of the Home Office Immigration Rules, Art. 8 ECHR applies upon the Immigration Rules, for the spouses who already live in the UK and hold a visa of a different category which is about to expire or who do not have a visa at all and need to apply either for a new one or for extension but are unable to fulfill the minimum financial requirement.[6]

 

In a situation where  a British citizen or “settled person” wishes for his/her spouse to get the spousal visa, he/she will have to illustrate that their family life would be affected by “insurmountable obstacles” in the case that the spouse’s or partner’s application was denied and was forced to return to their home country.[7] It must be noted that the term “insurmountable obstacles” refer to those obstacles that would be impractical to overcome rather than impossible. For instance, an insurmountable obstacle would be if a British citizen who has lived and worked in the UK for his whole life, as a result of not being able to be with his/her spouse, was forced to move instead in a place where the language barriers will make it impossible to relocate. The same argument applies also in the case that the couple has little children and moving to another county will make it impractical for them to adapt to the new standard of life and have a stable childhood.[8]

 

As soon as the existence of “insurmountable obstacles” and accordingly paragraph EX.1 have been established that apply in the case in hand, then the Right to family life as described in Article 8 ECHR takes presence, regardless of whether the financial requirement for the spousal visa is fulfilled.

 

What that means in practice is that the spouse/partner will be granted the right to remain in the UK, under the “10-year family route” which entitles them to “2,5 years” segments of leave, able to be extended in case they continue to fulfil the requirements. After the 10-year period of continuous leave is completed, the spouse/partner will most probably be eligible to apply for an indefinite leave to remain in the UK.  However, it should be noted that the final decision regarding the grant of the indefinite leave to remain depends on the discretion of the Home Office and the evidence required in each case.[9]

 

So, in case that your 10-year period is soon coming to an end, you must ensure that the legal requirements for applying for the indefinite leave are still the same and that no legal amendments have taken place that may affect your personal situation.

 

Finally, you should make sure that the documents backing your case are both correct and enough to support all the information mentioned in your application, as not doing is the most common reason for applications being declined.

 

Working Outside the Rules Applications

Another way for a defendant to be granted the spousal visa, in case that a sponsor is not able to comply with the financial requirement of the £18,600, is to request that the Home Office exercises its discretion to grant a permit to leave outside of the Immigration Rules.[10]

 

These rules, which were also mentioned in the section above, were adopted by the Secretary of State of the Home Department in 2012, in order to define the circumstances under which Art 8 ECHR, will apply. Even though, discretion is possible in some sections of the Rules, in most cases the requirements have to be met with the greatest possible detail or otherwise the application will be rejected automatically.[11]

 

In case, however, that the applicant does not fulfil any of the requirements of the Immigration rules, the Secretary of State of the Home Department has the discretion to grant permits of leave to the applicant outside of the Rules of Immigration. It should be noted though, that for this discretion to be exercised the circumstances of the case must be compelling and other issues of the case, such as the human rights of the specific individual and the other family members, should be examined carefully.[12] For instance, a British citizen who got married to a non-European citizen and have two children which are both British, has been unemployed for almost a year now and for that reason cannot sponsor his spouse’s application.

 

Since the financial condition of the British citizen constitutes a unique situation and children being raised without their mother while their father cannot take sufficient care of them, is considered a significant violation of their rights, is quite possible that an application working outside of the rules might be successful. What is important to keep in mind in this case, is that the key for your application here is to be able to prove that the circumstances of the case have a unique element and that the human rights of the whole family (or some family members) might be threatened.

 

Once again providing the necessary and correct evidence is extremely crucial and can determine the outcome of your case.

 

Finally, the applicant can request the Home Office to grant leave outside the Rules by publishing a concession.[13] That is a statement of policy or practice which explains or expands the Immigration Rules but never limits them. Concessions are made ad hoc as a response to a legal issue arisen or due to a difficulty related to an Immigration Rule in force. Even though requesting a grant this way still constitutes one of the possibilities and you should be aware of it, at the same time the reality is that concessions have been reduced significantly these past few years and only a few of them remain valid.[14]

Thus, while there is a financial requirement in order for the spousal visa to be issued, you should not be discouraged if you cannot fulfil it. The three options described above aim to assist you to be granted leave, according to your personal circumstances, insomuch as you have valid claims which you can support by providing the necessary evidence.

[1] Citizens advice, ‘Getting a visa for your spouse or partner to live in the UK’ (Citizens Advice, 2018)<https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/visas-family-and-friends/getting-a-visa-for-your-spouse-or-partner-to-live-in-the-uk/> accessed 29 April 2018.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] European convention of human rights, ‘Wwwechrcoeint’ (European Convention of Human Rights, 2018)<https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf> accessed 29 April 2018.

 

[6] Gov.uk, ‘Immigration Rules’ (Gov.UK, 6 April 2018) <https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-fm-family-members> accessed 29 April 2018

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Lexis Library, ‘Outside the Immigration Rules and human rights applications—overview’ (Lexis Library, 2018)<https://www.lexisnexis.com/uk/lexispsl/immigration/document/393826/55KG-8PB1-F18H-6241-00000-00/Outside-the-Immigration-Rules-and-human-rights-applications—overview> accessed 29 April 2018.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

Article by Elizabeth Ntilo