LONDON (CN) – Grappling with a pair of similar visa challenges, the country’s Supreme Court probed Tuesday whether serving as the primary caretakers of relatives with U.K. citizenship gives two immigrants a basis for permanent residency.
“What he does for them is impressive, but is it the case that he needs to do it himself?” Lord Phillip Sales asked, referring to Nilay Patel, a 32-year-old Indian national who has been the primary carer since 2010 of his sick and elderly parents, who are U.K. citizens.
The Secretary of State refused Patel’s application to remain in the United Kingdom in 2014 after his visa expired, despite Patel’s argument that his forced return to India would compel his parents to leave as well.
“All I wish to do is to ensure that my parents do not suffer,” Patel had said in a previous hearing before a tribunal. “They will simply not be at ease under the care of anyone apart from me. To separate me from my parents in this difficult period in their life is unnecessarily cruel and punishing to them.”
Patel notes that his father has final-stage kidney disease and suffers from high blood pressure, while his mother suffered a heart attack in 2012 and is relatively immobile because of poor knee function.
Highlighting the couple’s dependency, Patel’s attorney Thomas Roe told the high court Tuesday that his client helps them with showering, shopping and use of a dialysis machine, among other tasks. Patel would even sleep on a roll up bed in his parent’s room in case they needed his attention.
He said denying Patel permanent residency requires the court to address whether EU citizens, such as Patel’s parents, are “obliged in practice to leave the EU.”
Patel’s father told the court his life “would be finished” if his son were removed, but the government’s attorney David Blundell contested the claim, noting that the citizen parents have other options for support.
Following Roe’s argument, the court heard from Zane Malik, an attorney for 32-year-old Pakistani national Adil Shah.
Like Patel, Shah first arrived in the UK in 2008 on a student visa. He is now married and a parent, but the Secretary of State denied Shah’s application to remain in the country with wife and child, both of whom are British citizens.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Malik argued that Shah’s wife would be forced to give up her full-time employment if she has to become a sole carer of the couple’s child.
When asked in the first tribunal what would happen if Shah was not allowed to stay in the country, his wife replied that “they would have to move as a family.”
Lady Mary Arden framed the response another way, saying “Mrs. Shah could say that she is unwilling to look after the child because she is unable to do so on her own.”
Malik urged the court to take into account the welfare of the child. It is in the child’s interest to keep the family together in the UK, he argued.
Blundell, the government’s attorney, meanwhile denied this.
“The desire for family members to stay together for financial reasons or for family unity is not enough,” Blundell said.
While it is true that Shah’s wife works full-time to provide for the family, Blundell noted that this is because Shah did not have permission to work in the UK.
Noting that the family has other options, Blundell said Shah’s wife can seek assistance from other relatives, through care arrangements, or if necessary, welfare support.
Blundell said this is sufficient to show that Shah’s removal would not likewise compel his wife to leave.
Whereas Mrs. Shah may wish to move if her husband is required to leave, Blundell argued that does not mean that she has been compelled to leave.
Lady Brenda Hale thanked the lawyer after he concluded his submissions. “I think you have answered everything thrown at you, whether satisfactorily or not only time will tell,” she said.