The Government has won a challenge over the legality of new immigration measures affecting British citizens who want their spouses to join them in this country from abroad.
Three leading judges in London today allowed an appeal by the Home Secretary over a ruling given in July last year that the measures were ''onerous'' and ''unjustified''.
Although Mr Justice Blake ruled at the High Court at the time that it would not be appropriate to ''strike down'' the financial requirements set out in rules laid before Parliament in June 2012, he concluded that they amounted to a ''disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship''.
The case centres on three judicial review applications brought by two British citizens who are resident in the Birmingham area, and a ''recognised refugee'', relating to amendments made to the Immigration Rules, which include a mandatory requirement that a sponsor has a minimum gross income of £ 18,600.
Allowing the Government's challenge at the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Aikens and Lord Justice Treacy, declared that the new Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) rules "are lawful".
Following the ruling, campaigners said that the decision "will be devastating for the families who continue to be needlessly separated across borders".
Lord Justice Aikens, giving the ruling of the court, said that on July 9 2012 "changes were made to the Immigration Rules which, in summary, created a requirement that a UK partner who wishes to sponsor the entry of a non-EEA (European Economic Area state) partner must have a 'Minimum Income Requirement' of £18,600 gross per annum and additional income in respect of each child who wishes to enter the UK".
He added: "Various other new income and savings requirements were also introduced. The key question on this appeal is whether these provisions are unlawful as being a disproportionate interference with the UK partners' European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article 8 rights (the right to a private and family life)."
Mr Justice Blake had held "in effect" that they were.
But Lord Justice Aikens ruled that Mr Justice Blake's "analysis and conclusion that the new MIR were, in principle, incapable of being compatible with the Article 8 rights of the UK partners, and others if relevant, was not correct".
Lord Justice Aikens said: "I am very conscious of the evidence submitted by the claimants to demonstrate how the new MIR will have an impact on particular groups and, in particular, the evidence that only 301 occupations out of 422 listed in the 2011 UK Earnings data had average annual earnings over £18,600.
"But, given the work that was done on behalf of the Secretary of State to analyse the effect of the immigration of non-EEA partners and dependant children on the benefits system, the level of income needed to minimise dependence on the state for families where non-EEA partners enter the UK, and what I regard as a rational conclusion on the link between better income and greater chances of integration, my conclusion is that the Secretary of State's judgment cannot be impugned.
"She has discharged the burden of demonstrating that the interference was both the minimum necessary and strikes a fair balance between the interests of the groups concerned and the community in general."
The judge added: "Individuals will have different views on what constitutes the minimum income requirements needed to accomplish the stated policy terms.
"In my judgment it is not the court's job to impose its own view unless, objectively judged, the levels chosen are to be characterised as irrational, or inherently unjust or inherently unfair. In my view they cannot be."
Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants Rights Network, a charity campaigning for the right of UK residents "to have their family life respected in the UK", said after the ruling: " This judgment will be devastating for the families who continue to be needlessly separated across borders.
"Many UK residents and British citizens have had their lives put on hold for over a year, often with no chance of seeing their loved husbands, wives or children during that time.
"These rules are a shocking infringement of the right to family life, as almost half of the UK working population earns below the required amount. Being able to start a family in your own country should not be subject to the amount of money you make.
" Today's judgment is not the end of the story. We will keep campaigning for rules that respect the right of UK residents to live with their family, and hope that government will see sense and make the changes that are needed to protect these rights."
Paul Blomfield MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, said: " Today's Court of Appeal judgment will come as a disappointment for the thousands of families across the UK who remain apart as a result of these rules.
"A year ago, a cross-party group of MPs recognised the anguish they have caused and urged the Government to review the family migration rules.
"That concern was highlighted again this week in a packed meeting in the House of Commons. On behalf of our constituents, we will continue to press the Government to think again."
The Home Office welcomed what it described as a "major" judgment upholding the lawfulness of the minimum income threshold under the new family migration rules.
It said in a statement: "The minimum income threshold for British citizens to sponsor a non-EEA spouse or partner or child to come and live in the UK was introduced in July 2012. It aims to ensure that family migrants do not become reliant on the taxpayer for financial support and are able to integrate effectively.
" The minimum income threshold was set, following advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee, at £18,600 for sponsoring a spouse or partner, rising to £22,400 for also sponsoring a child and an additional £2,400 for each further child."
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: " I am delighted that the Court of Appeal has comprehensively upheld the lawfulness of this important policy.
"We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution, but family life must not be established in the UK at the taxpayer's expense and family migrants must be able to integrate.
"The minimum income threshold to sponsor family migrants is delivering these objectives and this judgment recognises the important public interest it serves."
The Home Office says the Court of Appeal judgment means that from July 28 " the 4,000 individuals whose applications are currently on hold, pending this judgment, will now receive a decision".
The statement added: "These are cases which met all the requirements apart from the minimum income threshold and now stand to be refused."