9 July 2012 was one of those famous days in the history of UK immigration law. It was the day when new family visa rules were introduced, specifically the formidable Appendix FM, which contains a remarkably intricate set of requirements for family visas, including the new Adult Dependant Relative visa requirements.
The new rules replaced previous rules, to which they are different and are generally harsher. Under the previous rules adult dependants (parents, grandparents and other relatives) could apply for a visa, either from in the UK or from outside the UK, on the basis that they were financially dependent on a person settled in the UK (the “sponsor”). In practice the immigration authorities were quite flexible about this, and the level of dependency did not always have to be established to a very strict level, so quite a few migrants were successful in their applications.
But nonetheless the Home Office was evidently not very happy about this situation, and the new 2012 rules were made on an entirely different basis. For one thing, it was no longer possible to switch inside the UK: all applications had to be made from outside.
And, for another thing – and this was the crunch – applicants could now only apply under a very narrow set of circumstances: “must as a result of age, illness or disability require long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks… must be unable, even with the practical and financial help of the sponsor, to obtain the required level of care in the country where they are living, because- (a) it is not available and there is no person in that country who can reasonably provide it; or (b) it is not affordable.
It does not require a legal genius to see that most migrants would be unable to meet these requirements. Some people thought that the new Appendix FM family rules, including the Adult Dependant rules, were highly unfair. An organisation called BRITCITS was set up in 2012 to oppose the new rules, in the courts if necessary.
It is right to point out that BRITCITS, and similar organisations, faced one significant disadvantage: the 2012 immigration rules had been debated in and approved by our democratically-elected Parliament. But, as BRITCITS put it, the 2012 rules “make a mockery of family values and violate the sanctity of marriage in causing the separation of families, keeping our citizens in exile and forcing British children unnecessarily into a single-parent upbringing”.
In any event, BRITCITS eventually got their day in court, ie the Court of Appeal, which is the second most senior court in England after the Supreme Court. BRITCITS argued that the rules are unlawful, and asked the Court to quash them, ie to strike them down.
They maintained that the rules had been made on the wrong basis, that they were unfair and irrational, and that they violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ie the Article that protects family life. It might seem that, of the three different arguments, the last one had the most substance to it.
In the event, however, none of these arguments succeeded. Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls (a very senior judicial position) systematically considered BRITCITS’ submissions but was not persuaded by any of them. In relation to the Article 8 issue, he particularly noted that Article 8 was not likely to be as strongly engaged between adults as it was between adults and minor children and also that Parliament had thoroughly endorsed the new rules. Lord Justice Sales agreed with him that the rules did not violate Article 8. So BRITCITS did not succeed and the rules remain unscathed.
So if you do wish to bring your adult dependant relative to the UK you should first of all take expert legal advice; this is a difficult area of immigration law.