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Latitude Law
  • General Immigration

Sponsoring adult dependants: who is eligible to join a family member in the UK?


This weekend multiple media outlets have reported that Doria Ragland – mother of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex – is rumoured to be moving to London.  But with her daughter here on a spouse visa (sponsored by Prince Harry), on what basis could Ms Ragland relocate?  This week our blog looks at adult dependants; who can sponsor, who can be sponsored and what circumstances will meet the requirements?

The Immigration Rules do not have generous provisions for adult dependant relatives.  It is possible for an individual to sponsor their parents, grandparents or an adult sibling, but only in extremely limited circumstances.

In previous versions of the Rules, the focus was on financial dependency.  Evidence that the UK-based family were already sending support overseas to adult family members was often enough where the visa applicant was elderly, or where there were additional health concerns.   Since 2012 however, the focus of this category has shifted away from finances (which nonetheless remain a relevant consideration) to the health of the visa applicant and their living conditions overseas.

Under current provisions, an adult dependent relative cannot be sponsored unless:

  • There is a UK sponsor who is settled here, or has British citizenship; and
  • The family relationship between the sponsor and applicant can be proven; and
  • The applicant needs long-term care to do every day personal and household tasks because of illness, disability or age; and
  • The care needed is not available or affordable in the country where the applicant is currently living; and
  • The UK sponsor will be able to support, accommodate and care for the visa applicant without claiming public funds for at least 5 years.

These provisions are notoriously difficult to satisfy, leading to a significant decline in the number of successful applicants under this visa route since the Rules were changed in 2012.  Under the old provisions, adult family migration like this had already been a small percentage of family visas, but the aftermath of the 2012 Rule changes saw a major drop from more than 2000 adult dependant visas a year to an average 162 per year.  There are no figures available after 2016 (the date of the last Home Office published review), but it is a reasonable assumption that numbers are still low.

So, is Doria Ragland going to qualify for an adult dependent relative visa if she decides to relocate?  Under the Immigration Rules, no.  Her daughter is not settled in the UK and cannot sponsor her here, and in any event, Ms Ragland is happily not in need of long-term care to do every day personal and household tasks because of illness, disability or age.  Even if that situation changes in future, it is difficult to imagine that the US will not have available care on offer, and this is a family that would struggle to show that such care could not be afforded.

Families who are considering the adult dependent relative route as an option need to consider these difficult requirements.  Proving the need for day-to-day care is tricky in itself, but the added need to show that this care is not available or cannot be afforded is doubly challenging.  That is not to say that the route is impossible.  Here at Latitude Law, we’ve assisted successful applicants unable to access care in the poorest regions of Kenya, or to have use of basic services due to their limited status in their country of residence (Iran).  The best advice is to take advice early, and to prepare thoroughly.  Refusal in this route leads to a right of appeal, but that process is slow and often the separation is difficult for families to bear.

And what of Ms Ragland’s possible relocation plans?  Well, she will need to find an alternative immigration route.  We’d advise caution with repeated entry as a visitor though; border officers are often suspicious of visitors seeking to spend time with UK-based family, and international press coverage of your alleged plans to live in the UK are unlikely to help with the argument that you will return home at the end of your trip.

If you would like to discuss the adult dependent relative route – or any other visa category – with one of our experts, call us on 0161 234 6800 (Manchester and London) or 0151 305 9600 (Liverpool)