Government will ‘no doubt’ waive immigration rules so Meghan Markle can come to UK to marry Prince Harry, says leading immigration lawyer

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By Katie King on

‘The couple with two British children I am representing at court tomorrow are not so fortunate’

It seems that, despite Dicey’s proclamation, we’re not all equal before the law after all: a leading immigration barrister has said he has “no doubt” the government will waive immigration law rules to facilitate Meghan Markle’s entry to the United Kingdom.

The actress, most famous for her role as a paralegal in Suits, will be marrying the cheekiest royal, Prince Harry, at Windsor Castle in May. Markle, for a number of reasons, isn’t quite your typical royal-to-be. Not only is she mixed race, Catholic and a divorcee, she’s also an American.

Anyone who has tried to immigrate from outside of the European Union into the UK will know visa rules can be tricky to navigate. That’s equally true of rules and evidence requirements surrounding marriage and fiancée visas, which Garden Court Chambers barrister Colin Yeo described to Legal Cheek as “onerous”.

Nicholas Webb, an immigration specialist, penned an article on the Free Movement blog, painstakingly demonstrating these rules and where the impending princess may stumble. While we’re pretty sure the couple will breeze through the financial requirements, the law says: “The relationship between the applicant and their partner must be genuine and subsisting.” On this, blogger Webb comments:

“In this respect our couple have the advantage that the media and paparazzi have already decided this is a genuine relationship. Their public profile means that many of these rules will be easy to meet with evidence. Mere mortals may want to provide their passports, family photographs and evidence they have been visiting each other and remained in contact for the duration of their relationship. Phone records, money transfers and social media can all help with this.”

Another hoop to jump through is that the couple “must intend to live together permanently in the UK”, which may cause a few difficulties given Markle is an actress on American TV. Markle has framed her engagement as a “new chapter” in her life, which could well be in response to this requirement.

And then there’s the rule meaning visa applicants must be able to be supported “without recourse to public funds” — let’s not even get into that one.

So, Yeo, we agree, the rules seem pretty onerous. But that may be of little concern to the newly-engaged actress. Yeo says:

“In principle [Markle] requires leave to enter or remain like any other non-EEA national. However, there is a general discretion conferred on the Secretary of State to grant leave outside the rules, which will no doubt occur here.”

Fair? Yeo doesn’t seem to think so. He continues:

“The couple with two British children I am representing at court tomorrow are not so fortunate. They face exile together or living apart because of the way the immigration rules on spouse income work.”

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