UK’s Increased MIR for Family Visas Faces High Court Challenge

| June 11, 2024
UK's Increased MIR for Family Visas Faces High Court Challenge

Affected families and advocacy groups have legally challenged the increased MIR in the high courts.

The Home Office has raised the MIR for family visas to £29,000 a year beginning in April 2024.

Anyone applying for a visa to bring a loved one from overseas must earn £29,000 a year.

The MIR will again increase early in 2025 to £38,700, the same amount as the salary threshold for skilled workers.

According to Reunite Families UK (RFUK), the measure violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Lawyers will argue that the planned increase to the MIR resulted in many children being separated from their parents living outside the UK.

This is because the British sponsor could not meet the MIR income or savings.

They also argue that the policy discriminates based on gender and ethnicity.

This is because women and minorities are statistically more likely to earn less than the required amount.

The judicial review aims to address the perceived injustices and hardships caused by this policy.

It will question the legal basis for the increase and whether the decision followed official UK government advice.

The UK family visa’s Minimum Income Requirement

In 2012, the UK implemented the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) for family-related visas.

It mandates British citizens and settled individuals to earn at least £18,600 per year to sponsor a non-European Economic Area (EEA) spouse or partner.

Non-EEA refers to a spouse or partner who is not a citizen of any of the European Union (EU) Member States, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland.

The MIR increases with the addition of children: £22,400 for one child and an extra £2,400 for each subsequent child.

The policy aims to ensure that families can support themselves financially without relying on public funds.

This is the first time in over a decade that the UK’s MIR has been updated.

The Home Office said the income a family requires to be self-sufficient and not rely on public funds has changed.

Its fact sheet stressed that families can still meet the increased MIR in other ways.

Savings can count towards meeting the MIR alongside lower income or on their own.

There will also no longer be a separate child element to the MIR.

This ensures British nationals receive equal treatment to skilled migrant workers, regardless of sponsored children.

The MIR challenge in High Court

The policy, first announced in December 2023, has faced substantial criticism for being overly stringent and discriminatory.

It has been blamed for splitting couples of different nationalities and forcing families to separate.

Many claim that most of the UK’s population earns too little to support a foreign spouse in the UK after the MIR increase.

RFUK argued that the income threshold disproportionately affects women, ethnic minorities, and lower-income individuals.

“The increases came as a complete surprise to the community we represent,” said Caroline Coombs of RFUK to The Guardian.

She said the change also came “at a time when people all over the UK have been struggling with a relentless cost of living crisis.”

Coombs said “the government has punished them” for making “their dream of a family life together here” unattainable.

Tessa Gregory, a partner at the law firm Leigh Day, who is representing RFUK, said the new policy was enacted “without proper analysis and in breach of critical public law duties.”

“RFUK will be asking the Court to quash the decision on the basis that the Home Secretary has acted unlawfully,” she stressed.

Lords Committee says MIR increase is unfair

The high court challenge seeks to overturn or amend the policy to make it more equitable.

Coombs of RFUK hopes the judicial review will allow the Ministers of Parliament to “pursue a better, more humane family migration policy.”

She hopes it’s “one that doesn’t discriminate based on one’s income.”

Instead, the new policy should recognize the “value of bi-national couples and families” to the economy and society.

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee expressed concern that the new MIR would unfairly affect low-income areas.

It illustrated how the new minimum income requirement affects different areas.

“A person living in London is much more likely to be entitled to bring their partner to the UK than someone living in the North East,” it stated.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, a member of the Scrutiny Committee, emphasized the need to evaluate the new regulations to understand their consequences fully.

The Scrutiny Committee noted that the government could generate different appropriate minimum income requirements.

The Home Office still needs to provide its impact assessments of the proposals, including on equality issues.

However, it maintains that the new MIR policy is essential to help families support themselves without depending on public resources.

It argues that the income threshold is a reasonable measure to maintain economic stability and control immigration.

Potential Outcomes and Implications

The high court’s decision on this matter could have significant implications for immigration policy in the UK.

If the court rules in favor of the challengers, it could lead to a revision or abolition of the minimum income requirement, allowing more families to reunite.

Conversely, if the government prevails, the policy will remain in place, affecting thousands of families.

Legal experts, human rights advocates, and affected families will closely watch this case’s outcome.

It has the potential to reshape the landscape of UK immigration policy and address longstanding concerns about fairness and equality.