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Surinder Singh route still requires genuine residence abroad


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The Court of Appeal has confirmed that in order to benefit from the Surinder Singh principle, the family involved must have genuinely resided in another EU country and have created or fortified their family life there. In Kaur & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWCA Civ 98 it rejected the argument that, as a result of the Court of Justice decision in C-202/13 McCarthy No.2, anyone with a residence card from another member state is entitled to have their family come and live with them in the United Kingdom.

The facts of this case are not attractive. Mr Singh and Mrs Kaur had previously been married but divorced in 2004. The following year Mr Singh married a Polish national, obtained residence rights in the UK and became a British citizen in 2012. In 2013 he divorced his Polish wife and re-married Mrs Kaur. The couple went to live in Bulgaria with their children for 19 days in 2017 and Mr Singh obtained a residence permit. Then the family returned to the UK.

The couple sought to rely on the Surinder Singh principle to get residence rights for Mrs Kaur and their children. That principle allows EU citizens to obtain residence rights for family members in their home country if they move elsewhere in the EU and then return. The idea is to ensure that EU citizens are not discouraged from moving to other European countries.

To prevent abuse, the residence abroad must be genuine and in some way create or fortify family life.

At their initial appeal the First-tier Tribunal, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that the residence in Bulgaria was not genuine and there was no attempt to develop a family life there. Nonetheless, it allowed the appeal on the ground that, following the decision in McCarthy No.2, any EU citizen with a residence card must be permitted to enter with their family members.

The Upper Tribunal rejected that argument and the Court of Appeal was equally dismissive, ruling that McCarthy No. 2 was concerned with the procedural requirements on entry and not the substantive rules for residence rights:

There is in my judgment no basis for thinking that the CJEU in McCarthy (No. 2) intended to overrule the decision in O v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel. It did not say so and the two cases were dealing with very different issues. O v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel is referred to repeatedly in the McCarthy (No. 2) judgment (see [31], [34], [36], [54] and [62]), at one point being cited as “settled case law”, while at [62] the CJEU even referred to [60] of the judgment in O v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel as confirming that residence permits issued on the basis of EU law declare and do not create rights. It added that “the fact remains that … the member states are, in principle, required to recognise a residence card issued under article 10 of Directive 2004/38, for the purposes of entry into their territory without a visa”, going on to say at [63] and [64] that the United Kingdom was entitled to verify the correctness of the data appearing on the Spanish residence permit in that case, although it could not impose further conditions on entry additional to those provided for by EU law.

Having reach that conclusion it was inevitable that the appeal would be dismissed as a result of the First-tier Tribunal’s findings that the period of residence in Bulgaria was not genuine.

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Alex Schymyck

Alex is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers