Many view Surinder Singh Immigration route as a loophole in the UK immigration law. Nevertheless it offers an excellent way for British citizens to reunite with their family member by bypassing stringent UK immigration law. Surinder Singh Immigration route is based on the principle that if a person from European Union moves from one Member State to another he or she must also have the right to return, otherwise a person would be deterred from moving in the first place. This essentially means that if you are exercising your right to return to your home Member State, you are doing it under the European Union law.
However in the coming days scores of British citizens with foreign-born partners who depend on Surinder Singh immigration rout to live together may see their chances of family life made even tougher by the EU renegotiation.
The Surinder Singh immigration route so far has acted as a door for UK citizens and their foreign spouse to bypass UK immigration laws by providing them the relaxation from meeting stipulated criteria to allow a foreign national to join their UK spouse.
The toughening up of UK immigration rules in July 2012, especially after the introduction of minimum income rule and elderly dependent relative rules has led to increase in the number of split families. According to a report published in December 2013, at least 6,000 adults, many of those couples have children, had their applications on hold by the Home Office. The numbers can only have increased since then. The Surinder Singh immigration route offers a potential means to bypass the harsh UK immigration rules by relying instead in European Union free movement laws.
However on 12 March, 2014, the Grand Chamber of the Court of the European Union made significant changes to Surinder Singh immigration route in the form of new case of O and B v The Netherlands Case C-456/12. Here are some of the key points that emerged from the case:
- At least three months of compulsory residence period is required.
- Holiday or weekend visits do not count towards residence period.
- Any citizen of the European Union can benefit from this right and not just workers or self-employed.
- Family life must have been created or strengthened during the period of residence, for example living together.
- Abuse is impermissible.
- The EU court has recognized only the right of spouse and children of EU citizens to return home after exercising free movement rights in another EU country.