Cornwall

Man faces removal as UK wife's salary too low

Natalie and Michael Engel with daughter Nyana Image copyright Michael Engel
Image caption Michael Engel, pictured with his wife Natalie and daughter Nyana, now has 14 days to appeal against the ruling

A man faces removal from the UK after a judge said his British wife's salary was not high enough.

Michael Engel, from South Africa, said the "bizarre" immigration system rules were "attacking British citizens".

Mr Engel, a 31-year-old yacht engineer living in Cornwall, said he and wife Natalie plan to go back to South Africa with 18-month-old daughter Nyana.

A Home Office spokesman said the rules were designed to stop foreign spouses becoming reliant on UK taxpayers.

'I'm gobsmacked'

Image copyright Google
Image caption UK top three and bottom three areas average gross full time pay (ONS figures April 2014) - Cornwall was in the lowest 10% of 410 authorities

Under rules introduced in 2012, British citizens who want to bring a foreign spouse to the UK must earn £18,600 a year.

The couple were told by an immigration tribunal in 2013 that the earnings from Mrs Engel's craft-making business do not meet the financial threshold.

They appealed on human rights grounds in a bid to protect their family life.

But Judge Michael Wilson, who heard the appeal on 3 December, said UK taxpayers "should not be expected to have to financially support the appellant in the event of him not obtaining work".

The couple now have 14 days to seek permission to make a further appeal.

Mr Engel said: "We did everything in our power to tick all the boxes.

"They are just attacking the wrong people - they are attacking British citizens."

Ruling appeal

Mrs Engel said the decision made her feel like her family was being "kicked out" of the country.

She said: "I'm gobsmacked, lost for words, angry and deflated. I'm not so proud to be British right now."

The couple met in 2009 working on a cruise ship and lived in South Africa for four years.

They moved to the UK in January 2013 with Mr Engel on a visitor's visa, living first in Yorkshire and then in Cornwall.

In a statement the Home Office said: "All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.

"Mr Engel's application for a residence card was refused. This decision has been backed up in the courts by an independent immigration judge who also found the decision would not be in breach of any Human Rights."

Image caption Michael Engel, his wife Natalie and daughter Nyana, are now awaiting a deportation date

Average gross full time pay in Cornwall was £23,305 for the year ending April 2014, compared with £27,195 for the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Cornwall was in the lowest 10% of 410 authorities that provided figures.

North Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP, Dan Rogerson, said: "The decision is a blow to Michael and Natalie, and to their family and friends.

"We need to make sure that the immigration system lets families in low income areas like ours stay together, whilst at the same time ensuring that people have the financial means to support their spouse if they come to the UK."

Independent think-tank the Migration Observatory said an estimated 43% of British workers did not earn enough to sponsor a spouse from outside the EU.

It said the ruling hit people worse in some parts of the country because of the difference in average earnings.

A spokesman said: "Any policy which places a financial threshold on the ability of someone to bring a partner into the country naturally discriminates against those who earn less, particularly women, those who don't live in London and young people

"It raises a question at a local level of whether it's right that a person who is from Cornwall should be less likely to be able to bring a person into the UK than someone from London."

  • Correction: This story was amended on 15 December 2014 following clarification from Mr Engel on his status.

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