Are the UK immigration rules tearing non-EEA families apart?

When the UK immigration rules in relation to family members were revised in July 2012, the introduction of Appendix FM saw harsh criteria being implemented for applications by ‘adult dependent relatives.’ This category covers foreign national elderly parents of a settled person or naturalised British citizen who wish to come to the UK in order to be cared for by their children or grandchildren in their old age.

Under the previous immigration rules, adult dependent relatives could come to the UK to be cared for by their children provided they could demonstrate that they had no one else in the country to care for them, they could be maintained and accommodated in the UK without recourse to public funds and they were dependent on the UK national. Now the Rules have tightened up to the extent that it is practically impossible to sponsor an elderly relative.

Appendix FM of the immigration rules requires applicants to show that they need to be cared for by their child (sponsor) in the UK “as a result of age, illness or disability requiring long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks” and, furthermore, that they cannot, even with the practical and financial help of the sponsor, obtain the required care in their country of origin because it is not available or is not affordable. Therefore, the application will only be granted to dependent relatives if they can demonstrate that they are entirely dependent and need long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks such as dressing and feeding and this help cannot be obtained in their country of origin. The result of these changes is that the thresholds are extremely high such that very few cases for adult dependent relatives have been able to succeed since these new rules were introduced.

The problem is that whilst applicants have to show adequate maintenance and accommodation in the UK to maintain the relative, they also have to show that they cannot afford to maintain the relative abroad. This appears to be a paradox, as arguably, if there is sufficient money to care for the person in the UK, there will be sufficient money to pay for private carers abroad. Sponsors therefore need to prove that they cannot afford nursing care for their dependent relative in lower cost economies such as Russia, India or The Philippines, whilst at the same time showing they have sufficient funds to provide maintenance and accommodation for them in more expensive Britain. Only if private care is impossible to come by in the applicant’s home country are these cases likely to succeed. In many cases, children will also want to care for their parents in their old age, preferring to do so themselves instead of hiring private carers.   The revised rules make this very difficult to achieve and also do not take into consideration the emotional support that elderly dependents may require in addition to day-to-day care and maintenance.  

Conversely, and perhaps ironically, the latest immigration rules do not apply to EU nationals living in the UK. Under the EU Directive 2004/38/EC, EU nationals living here can bring non-EU dependent relatives – including those living outside Europe – to settle in the UK without any restrictions and few conditions except that they will not become a burden on the state. This includes those who may have just arrived from or have previously live in any EU country. Unfortunately for some, it would appear that the UK Immigration Rules have become harder and tougher on non-EU migrants, to compensate for the comparative ease and flexibility of immigration under EU immigration laws.

If you have any queries about how the UK immigration rules affect non-EEA nationals and dependents, please contact us

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