Home Office Provides New Guidance on Surinder Singh Route

Married couple holding hands

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The Surinder Singh route has long offered hope to married couples who cannot meet the draconian UK Spousal Visa requirements.  It has also caused no end of frustration to the Home Office, who have tried to make it more difficult for those settled in the UK to bring over spouses from abroad.

On 27th October 2017, the Government released new guidance on the decision-making steps caseworkers need to consider when processing Surinder Singh applications.  As one of the best immigration lawyers in London, we have examined these carefully.

We shall go through the details of the new guidance in due course, but first, it is useful to reiterate what the Surinder Singh route is and how it works.

The basics of the Surinder Singh route

Non-EEA spouses may be able to apply for an EEA family permit if they have lived in another EEA country with an eligible family member who’s a British citizen.

Here is how it works:

The British citizen must be exercising their Treaty rights (either as an employed, self-employed or economically self-sufficient person or a student), before returning to the UK.  Their non-EEA spouse must have lived with them in the EEA state, and they must have been married prior to returning to the UK. 

Caseworkers are obliged to follow a six-stage decision-making procedure when considering a Surinder Singh application.  These stages are:

  • Stage 1: verify the family member’s eligibility to apply and the British citizen’s eligibility to sponsor the application
  • Stage 2: establish whether the British citizen exercised free movement rights in the European Economic Area (EEA) host country
  • Stage 3: determine whether residence in the EEA host country was genuine
  • Stage 4: determine the purpose of the residence in the EEA host country
  • Stage 5: obtain additional information if needed
  • Stage 6: decide the application

It is crucial that you engage an experienced immigration solicitor to provide you with the best advice on how to construct your application so that you can navigate through these stages successfully.

The centre of life test

The minimum period for living in the EEA state is three months.  However, to meet the requirements set out by the UK Home Office, it is likely you need to have lived abroad for longer.  This is because you need to show the “centre of your life” was transferred to the other EEA state.

According to Home Office guidance, when considering the degree of integration in the EEA host country, an immigration official will consider:

  • if the family includes any children, were they born or did they live in the EEA host country and if so, did they attend school there and were they otherwise involved in the local community?
  • are there any other family members resident in the EEA host country and were they working or studying there or otherwise involved in the local community?
  • how did the family member spend their time in the EEA host country – is there evidence they worked, volunteered, studied or contributed to the community in any other ways?
    • have they immersed themselves in the life and culture of the EEA host country, for example:

               i.        have they bought property there?

              ii.        do they speak the language?

             iii.        are they involved with the local community?

             iv.        do they own a vehicle that is taxed and insured there?

              v.        have they registered with the local health service, a general practitioner (GP), a dentist?

The more of these factors that are present, the more likely the Home Office is to decide that the centre of your life was indeed transferred to the host member state.

Changes to the Home Office guidance

The government has released new guidance on EU free movement rights for the family members of British citizens. It is specifically determined to outline how caseworkers consider applications of a family member of a British citizen, in line with the immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016.  There are three main changes to the most recent version of the guidance.

The changes include:

  • additional clarification that a British citizen does not need to be a ‘qualified person’ in their initial three months back in the UK – this brings UK law into line with the decision in O v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel, and Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel v B, Case C-456/12, [2014] All ER (EC) 843
  • addition of a new section about retained rights of residence
  • addition of a new section about assessing UK residence prior to 25 November 2016

The effect of Brexit on the Surinder Singh route

If you are a British citizen and you wish to enter the UK under the Surinder Singh route, you need to act fast.  Once Britain officially leaves the EU, it is likely the Surinder Singh route will be cut off.

This means that those wanting to bring a non-EEA spouse to the UK will have to apply for a UK spouse visa.  The criteria for this are reasonably high and include:

  • you both must be over 18 years
  • you must be legally married (marriages such as traditional tribal marriages may not suffice)
  • you must have suitable accommodation
  • the sponsoring spouse must be earning at least £18,600 (more if children are also being sponsored)
  • you must meet the English language requirements

In addition to this, you will have to pay the Healthcare Surcharge up-front.

If you require further information about obtaining entry into the UK via the Surinder Singh route, contact our London Immigration Solicitors immediately.  We can advise you on whether you are eligible and if you are not, the steps you need to take to fulfil the eligibility criteria.  We can also assist you if your application has been refused by the Home Office.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London and is ranked highly in the Legal 500 for immigration and Human rights

By making an appointment with one of our Immigration Solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. 

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960.

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