South African claims he will be deported as British wife earns too little

His wife said: 'I'm not so proud to be British now'

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The Independent Online

A South African accused the UK immigration authorities of acting against the interests of their own citizens yesterday after he lost his battle to remain in the country with his British wife and 18-month-old daughter.

Michael Engel, 31, faces deportation in less than a month, after losing his final attempt to remain in the  country on human-rights grounds to avoid the break-up of his family.

He claimed that he had previously been refused the right to stay in the country because his then-pregnant wife did not earn the £18,600 a year needed under 2012 rules, aimed at preventing foreign spouses from becoming dependent on UK taxpayers.

But following the birth of their daughter last year, Natalie Engel earned nearly £20,000 in 2014 from her craft-and-design business but a judge considered her earnings to remain as “minimal”  as he refused Mr Engel’s application to stay. The Home Office said yesterday that the decision to refuse his application was not based on minimum earnings.

Mr Engel, a yacht engineer who works in a café, said  that the family are all now likely to return to his native South Africa.


“It was just a massive shock,” Mr Engel said. “We’re just shell-shocked about it all. This is absolutely crazy – it’s an attack on British citizens.”

Mr Engel said that “plan B” was to move to mainland Europe to live for six months before returning to Britain to exploit a potential loophole identified by David Cameron in an immigration speech  last month.

Mr Cameron said that it was an “extraordinary situation” that it was easier for an EU citizen to bring a non-EU spouse to Britain than it was for a British citizen to do the same. “At the moment, if a British citizen wants to bring, say, a South American partner to the UK, then we ask for proof that they meet an income threshold and can speak English,” he said.

“But EU law means we cannot apply these tests to EU migrants. Their partners can just come straight into our country without any proper controls at all.” He claimed that the loophole was responsible for most of the 4,000 bogus marriages that took place in Britain every year.

Mr Engel and his wife met on a cruise in 2009 and lived in South Africa for four  years before they moved to Britain and settled in Polzeath in Cornwall.

In his ruling, Judge Michael Wilson said that while Mr Engel has the right of a private and family life with his wife and his daughter, Nyana, he did not have the automatic right to do that in the UK. “I consider her [Nyana] to be young enough to easily adapt to life there,” he said.

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.”