Parliament to debate settlement income requirement

The government announced in February that non-EU citizens who have been working and living in the UK for 5 or more years must now meet a £35,000 minimum income requirement to be able to remain in the country. While this doesn’t change the income requirements for Family Migration, it does vastly expand the government’s push to tie immigration to wealth, and will affect a wide variety of students, educators, and skilled workers across the country, many who have likely now established families of their own. What becomes of children born as UK citizens when their parents cannot stay?

The announcement swiftly was swiftly met with a petition to scrap the requirement, which received over 100,000 signatures and so has compelled Parliament to debate the topic. An email today has announced the debate will be held Monday, 7 March at 4.30pm.

In that email the petitions committee has invited input and feedback to help inform the debate. They say:

In particular, we would like to know:

  • How will the £35,000 income threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK affect you?
  • Is the introduction of the income threshold affecting your future plans?
  • How will the introduction of the income threshold affect your business, your workplace and/or your community?

The deadline for comments to be considered in the debate is midnight on Thursday 3 March 2016.

This is super short notice! They are encouraging commentary on the UK Parliament Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/ukparliament/

You can also contact your local MP directly tell them why this debate is important to you and suggest any points you would like them to raise. Find out who your MP is and how to contact them here.

You can watch the debate live on Parliament TV: http://parliamentlive.tv/

A big week in history

borrowed from bbc.co.ukSo much going on! The EU and David Cameron reached a deal this week which would see a number of key facets of the European law amended to allow the UK a more distinct position within the federation of member states. The EU published the full text of that agreement in a press release Friday.

It’s notable that two of Cameron’s requests weren’t included at all: the ability to oust people who haven’t found a job in six months, and a requirement for jobseekers to have a job offer before entering the country. Neither, apparently, were possible under current EU treaty, and it’s some small consolation that the deal is not a complete capitulation to the UK demands.

However, apparently most of the language regarding changes to the free movement rules has stayed intact from the draft documents, which we looked at in some depth earlier this month. Steve Peers has done a comprehensive opinion piece on the immigration elements of the final deal, to which I can’t possibly add, but specifically relevant is this:

The amendments will exclude two separate categories of non-EU citizens from the scope of the citizens’ Directive: those who did not have prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying an EU citizen who has moved to another Member State; and those who marry such an EU citizen after he or she has moved to a Member State. For these people, national immigration law will apply.

(emphasis mine.) It reads as if a non-EU spouse would need to establish legal residence in an EU country before marrying an UK citizen, but that the marriage needs to happen before the UK citizen moves to that third country. It’s messy, and as Peers says,

the planned legislative changes will complicate the plans of people who wish to move to another Member State with their non-EU family and then move back, since national immigration law will apply to their move to the hostMember State.

In plainer words: as feared, it looks like the Surinder Singh path will become more difficult. But as Peers also examines, there are a lot of things still open to interpretation, possibly by the courts, and the SS door seems not fully closed.

Acceptance of these changes is of course contingent on the UK agreeing to stay in the EU at all, which of course was another big development this week: Cameron officially set a June 23 date for an “in or out” referendum.

We have an idea what a vote to stay may mean for immigration policy. We have no idea at all what an exit may bring. Some are actually arguing EU free movement is hindering a fair immigration system…though I personally find it hard to believe Theresa May will suddenly change her tune should a separation occur. It’s not hard to imagine this being the biggest democratic event of our lifetimes; if you are able to vote, please take the time to form a considered opinion and express it.

And while all this is going on, we mustn’t forget that this week the Supreme Court hears appeals on two cases testing the basic legality of the income restriction. The outcome of these rulings could in fact have influence on the way the EU deal plays out. Should the income requirement be ruled disproportionately interfering with the ECHR Article 8 right to a family life, the whole game changes for people bringing family to the UK, regardless of Cameron’s EU deal.

Years from now, looking back at the course of UK history, it’s easy to imagine how the week or so surrounding today will be seen as a turning point. But which way will things turn?

Things to remember:
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Comment: EU draft revision to free movement rules

David Cameron’s negotiations with the EU have been all over the news these last few days, with a lot of focus on Donald Tusk’s response to his key demand for a 4-year ban on in-work benefits for EU migrants.
While the European Council has proposed a compromise which many are calling a defeat for Cameron, there are other, less noticed, concessions in proposed changes to the free movement laws (pdf), which could have a direct bearing on the ability of UK citizens to bring their non-EU family home.
Steven at BritCits has done an initial analysis in his blog post here, and explores his understanding of the changes, focusing on two key statements:
  1. “The Commission intends to adopt a proposal to complement Directive 2004/38 on free movement of Union citizens in order to exclude, from the scope of free movement rights, third country nationals who had no prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying a Union citizen or who marry a Union citizen only after the Union citizen has established residence in the host Member State. Accordingly, in such cases, the host Member State’s immigration law will apply to the third country national. ”
  2. “Member States can address specific cases of abuse of free movement rights by Union citizens returning to their Member State of nationality with a non-EU family member where residence in the host Member State has not been sufficiently genuine to create or strengthen family life and had the purpose of evading the application of national immigration rules.” 
Combined, these statements seem to dramatically change the landscape for those seeking to gain a family residence permit living in Europe and then follow the Surinder Singh path to the UK. The first point is a bit of a tangle but seems to suggest that under this proposal, to exercise free-movement rights, a non-EU partner needs to either
  1. establish independent residency, on their own merit, in the EU country before getting married to an UK citizen, or
  2. once married, the UK partner may be able to gain residence in a third EU country and meet that country’s requirements to sponsor a family member. (I admit, based on the wording I find this scenario pretty unclear)
In short, the proposal seems specifically targeted at closing the option of moving to an EU country with less restrictive rules than the UK, getting married, and then applying for a family permit.
The second part of the proposal is I think even fuzzier, as there is no way to objectively quantify “sufficiently genuine.” It goes beyond proving your relationship is “real” into forcing people to prove the underlying motivation of having moved abroad in the first place, and leaves the decision open to a completely subjective opinion.
Full information on the EU proposals is available here. It is  just a draft proposal, and it may yet change, but it is important that people know what is on the table. As it stands it would appear that Surinder Singh would still be possible, but could be significantly harder. It’s not clear how non-spouse family would be affected, and as Steven points out in the BritCits newsletter, these proposals raise more questions than they answer. There is far more that we don’t know about what the impacts might be than what we do know right now.
There are some things you can do, right now, though:
image credit : dailymail.co.uk, thank you!

Two key court cases coming in February 2016

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in not one but two important cases relating to the minimum income rules.
The case known as MM (Lebanon) is the one we were all watching keenly last year as the Home Office appealed an earlier ruling which declared the income rules in violation of EU Human Rights Law. That appeal what disappointingly upheld (here is an in-depth analysis of the ruling), but the court has given permission to further appeal, with hearings before the court happening Feb 22-24th, 2016.
The court has also agreed to hear an appeal on a related second case,  SS (Congo) & Others at the same time.
Quoting 43templerow, the legal firm representing many of the plaintiffs:

“The case of MM deals with whether the rules are so harsh that they represent an inherently disproportionate interference in the right to a family life under Article 8 ECHR, or alternatively that they are lawful because the Secretary of State or a tribunal can allow cases on a discretionary basis even where the rules are not met. The case of SS looks at the width of that second stage – Theresa May arguing that consequences such as those identified […] by the Children’s Commissioner are simply not good enough to qualify as an exception.”

Either case could prove a vital turning point in the struggle for thousands of families affected by the minimum income ryules. As 43templerow says,

“The decision of the Supreme Court is likely to be the most significant human rights cases it has decided in years: in legal terms the extent to which government policy can determine the outcome of assessments of proportionality in Article 8, and in human terms by the tens of thousands of people’s lives it will affect.”

BritCits is inviting people who are able to come to the Supreme Court to attend the hearings as audience in the gallery. The hearings are public, people are welcome to attend, and entrance is free.
They say,

“The more people who are seen in the gallery the more public interest this case will generate, and it also shows the judges the people directly affected by these rules – we’re not just Home Office statistics.

For those who cannot attend the hearing should be broadcast live at https://www.supremecourt.uk/ but again, please do attend if you can – all three days or just part of one day. Your presence does make a difference.”

Britcits has created a Facebook event here https://www.facebook.com/events/1677104912566231/
The live broadcast should be here https://www.supremecourt.uk/
And on twitter you can follow the hashtag #MMCase – http://twitter.com/hashtag/MMCase

Media Opportunity: Documentary

We have been contacted by Pernel Media who are making a documentary about the Rules and how they affect families.  They are looking for families to work with in run up to Christmas: showing how family life works when your family is divided by the Rules.  We understand that the team would spend a day or two a week over the course of six weeks.

This seems like a great opportunity to educate the British public on the impact of the Rules, and particularly on children.  They are looking for couples affected and also for families with children who are divided, or perhaps about to spend a last Christmas together and don’t know when they will be reunited.

Here’s the info.  Do contact Emma directly:

Is your family torn apart by new UK visa requirements? Is your spouse/ partner from outside of the EU refused a visa as you can’t afford financial criteria?

If this is you or someone you know Pernel Media want to hear from you. We are making a documentary for a major British channel telling the stories of people whose families are separated by UK immigration rules.

If you are interested in sharing your story please contact Emma at Pernel Media
emmap@pernelmedia.tv or call/ text 07960 485372

https://www.facebook.com/Immigration-Documentary-502796613214079

#7 What I can do is: sign this petition to the UK government

This petition, which requests that the UK government ‘allows British families to stay together by removing minimum income requirements’, currently has 8,737 signatures.  If 1263 more people sign it before March 2016, the government will be required to respond to it.

This is a good time to make as much noise as possible about the Rules as the MM case which contests the financial requirements is going to the Supreme Court in February 2012.

Please sign the petition, and share it on your social media.  By far the best way to invite other people to sign it is to email them (according to change.org when we ran our own petition there) so please, if you can once you have signed, email five people to invite them to sign too and explain your reasons.

Tamala’s story

 

 

 

This story was submitted in the comments on our ‘Tell your story‘ page.  It is beautifully written and I wanted to share it with you here too.  -KR

 

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Tamala’s story

He was humble, handsome and intelligent, different to the other guys. That’s what made me take notice. He proposed in 2009. It was like a dream, finally someone for me. Someone to share life with for eternity. 

Everyone is entitled to love and to marry. Strangely the authorities didn’t agree. 

We fought to marry. We fought for him to stay. All the fighting brought me stress and physical pain. It left me ill. It cost my job. Financial ruin and all hope is lost.

11 April 2013 the home office seperated my husband and me. Everyone is entitled to love and to marry. Strangely the authorities didn’t agree.

I’ve earned all the money, I’ve gathered the fees, I’ve given them letters from friends and family. I’ve given up my privacy. I’ve sent them my life. I’ve asked for permission to be a wife. 

Everyone is entitled to love and to marry. Strangely the authorities didn’t agree. 

Still waiting.

#6 What I can do is: go and see Red Book, Blue Book

Red Book, Blue Book

Red Book, Blue Book

A short play by Britcits member Kit Walkham, called Red Book, Blue Book will be performed twice this week: once in Plymouth as part of BETA at Ocean Studios on Monday 26th October (tomorrow) and then as part of The Platform scratch night in London on Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd November.

“As 6 year old Kristina talks to a doll given to her by her absent father, her fears for their future are exposed.”

You can book tickets here:

Plymouth

London

#5 What I can do is: check out the Migrants’ Rights website

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Migrants’ Rights are a small organisation doing big things for migrants in the UK.  And they are also instrumental in the campaign about the Family Migration Rules.

A good starting point is Chai Patel’s blog on the Children’s Commissioner’s report about the Rules, which came out in September.

I’d recommend having a good look around their website, and also signing up for the weekly newsletter, which includes listings of interesting events around the UK.  These include the various protests about the Family Migration Rules.

You can find them on Facebook, as well as on Twitter, where they are @migrants_rights.

Enjoy.