1. Prior to the new immigration rules (HC 194) introduced on 9 July 2012, cases involving Article 8 ECHR ordinarily required a two-stage assessment: (1) first to assess whether the decision appealed against was in accordance with the immigration rules; (2) second to assess whether the decision was contrary to the appellant’s Article 8 rights.
2. The new immigration rules set out a number of mandatory requirements relating to claims reliant on Article 8 (“Article 8 claims”) which make clear that if such requirements are not met, the Article 8 claim under the rules must be refused. They also contain related provisions which confer discretion but it is discretion to grant leave in response to an Article 8 claim only if the new mandatory requirements are met.
3. Whenever the new rules have application judges are obliged to consider whether an appellant can show he meets the relevant requirements (s.86(3)(a) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002). Where the new rules afford some related discretion, judges are obliged to consider whether that discretion should have been exercised differently (s. 86(3)(6)). However, what judges are doing when they are conducting this exercise is simply applying the rules: the rules are the rules:
4. Because for most purposes the immigration rules must be given legal effect their requirements for applicants making an Article 8 claim to show “exceptional circumstances” or “insurmountable obstacles” are to be understood as legal requirements in the same way as any other mandatory requirements of the rules.
5. However, the new rules only cover Article 8 claims brought under some, not all, Parts of the Rules and only accommodate certain types of Article 8 claims.
6. Even if a decision to refuse an Article 8 claim under the new rules is found to be correct, judges must still consider whether the decision is in compliance with a person’s human rights under s.6 of the Human Rights Act ( see s.84(1)(c), (g) and (e) and s.86(2) and (3) of the 2002 Act) and, in automatic deportation cases, whether removal would breach a person’s Convention rights (s.33(2) UK Borders Act 2007). Thus in the context of deportation and removal cases the need for a 2 stage approach in most Article 8 cases remains imperative.
7. When considering Article 8 in the context of an appellant who fails under the new rules, it will remain the case, as before, that “exceptional circumstances” is not to be regarded as a legal test and “insurmountable obstacles” is to be regarded as an incorrect criterion.