Immigration Authorities’ View of Family Life
In November the Supreme Court rejected an appeal on behalf of two British women who had challenged the rule that their spouses must speak English before being allowed to join them in the UK.
Saiqa Bibi and Saffana Ali had claimed that the rule demanding that their husbands must speak English before being allowed to join them on a UK spouse visa was a breach of their rights to family life. This rule is enshrined under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights which insists on a person’s right to a private and family life.
However, a panel of five judges was unimpressed by their arguments and rejected the appeals on the basis that the language requirement for the granting of a UK spouse visa was not, in fact, in breach of article eight.
The women had pointed to the fact that there were practical obstacles to their husbands learning English but the five judges’ ruling went beyond the specifics of their cases and focused narrowly on the question of how the UK law interacted with the more wide raging mandate imposed from the European courts.
The pre-entry language requirement for a UK spouse visa has been in place since 2010. Before that date a spouse was required to show their competence in English only two years after their arrival.
Earlier this year protests were staged against the government’s minimum income level of £18,600 for people to be able to establish a spouse visa. To date those protests have failed to change the government’s stance on an issue that affects an estimated 33,000 families, many with children who are denied the chance to grow up in a family environment that includes both their parents.
Both the appeal court’s rejection of the claims of Saiqa Bibi and Saffana Ali and the insistence on the £18,600 income threshold for UK spouse visa point to the highly unsympathetic way in which family relationships are currently viewed by the UK border authorities.
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