Families 'torn apart' by immigration rules on spouses
A minimum income requirement imposed on non-EU migrants limits the number able to enter the UK. But some families claim the system is unfair and is keeping spouses and their children apart, as Inside Out East reports.
Farshid Ghafourpour grew up in Cambridge, was privately educated and went to university in the UK. After graduating, he went to live and work in Thailand - where he met his future wife, Korakot.
Twelve years later, he is back in the UK to care for his elderly mother. The couple's two daughters, aged six and eight, are both British citizens by birth.
But unlike many of their classmates, the girls cannot come home from school to a hug from their mother, or have her tuck them into bed at night.
Their only contact with her is via Skype.(...)
'Onerous and unjustified'
Under rules that came into force in July 2012, only British citizens with a salary of at least £18,600 a year for the past six months can sponsor their non-European spouse's visa.
This rises to £22,400 for families with a child, and a further £2,400 for each further child.
The Migration Observatory has estimated that, based on these thresholds, 61% of women and 32% of men in employment in the UK would not qualify to bring in a family member.
Clare Hedges, an immigration lawyer with Birketts Solicitors in Cambridge, said: "It has generally been accepted now to have some sort of income requirement to make sure that people can support their family if they come to the UK without recourse to public funds.
"But £18,600 is still a lot more than we expect people to live on if they are on benefits, it is more than you would expect to receive if you were doing a normal working week for the national minimum wage.
"So it has been suggested that that figure should be set at a slightly lower level."
This week, the Court of Appeal is due to hear arguments from the Home Office about why the minimum income requirement should stay as it is.
The government's appeal follows a High Court ruling in July that the threshold is too high.
Three claimants had challenged the income restrictions on the basis the rules were discriminatory and interfered with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act - the right to a private and family life.
Mr Justice Blake described the policy as "onerous... and unjustified". He said the court would not "strike down" the legislation, but urged the home secretary to make adjustments.
The Court of Appeal is expected to reserve judgement for three months.