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Professor Helena Wray

Professor of Migration Law

Amory 139


Helena Wray is an expert in British immigration law. Her research focuses on the regulation of families through immigration control.  She is currently working with Professor Katharine Charsley (University of Bristol) on a three year (2023-2026) ESRC funded project 'UK-EU couples after Brexit: migrantization and the UK family immigration regime'. Her most recent monograph is 'Article 8 ECHR, Family Reunification and the UK’s Supreme Court: Family Matters?' which was published by Hart in February 2023.

Between July 2022 and February 2023, she was specialist advisor to the House of Lords Committee on Justice and Home Affairs during its inquiry into family migration.  In 2015, she was the lead author of a major report, commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner for England from Middlesex University and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and launched in Parliament, on the impact of the financial requirements in the family migration rules on children. She also led teams that submitted expert evidence in two test cases heard in the Supreme Court, Ali and Bibi v SSHD on pre-entry language testing for spouses, and the key case of MM v SSHD on the financial conditions to be met by the sponsors of migrant spouses and partners, leading to changes in the Immigration Rules. In 2013, she gave written and oral evidence in the House of Commons at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration’s Enquiry into Family Migration. 

Between 2011 and 2022, she was editor of Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law. 

Helena came to academic life after working for some years as a solicitor in the City of London. She has an interest in pro bono legal services and was previously a founding member and Chair of a Law Centre in London. She returned to academic study via a PhD at SOAS, University of London, and worked at Middlesex University, London, before coming to Exeter.

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Helena’s research focuses on the intersection of law and regulation with social and political migration processes, particularly where these impact families. She has led or been involved in in several funded research projects across the globe, working with scholars from sociology, anthropology, political science and other disciplines.

With Professor Nick Gill, Professor Elena Isayev and Dr Ben Hudson, Helena co-ordinates Routes, an inter-disciplinary research network on migration, mobility and displacement based at Exeter.

Selected Publications:

Authored Books:             

 Article 8 ECHR, Family Reunification and the UK’s Supreme Court: Family Matters? (Hart 2023)

Regulation of Marriage Migration into the UK: A Stranger in the Home (Ashgate 2011)     

Refereed Articles:          

'Family reunification and article 8 ECHR: Three steps towards a fair balance' (forthcoming) European Human Rights Law Review 

‘Introduction to Special Issue: Family Migration in Times of Crisis’ (2023) Migration Studies, (with Katharine Charsley, Gizem Kolbaşı-Muyan and Lothar Smith)

‘Kept apart: Routine family separation in the UK family immigration system as times of crises’ (2023) Migration Studies (with Katharine Charsley)

‘Subversive citizens: Using EU free movement law to bypass the UK’s rules on marriage migration’ Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2019) DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2019.1625140 (with Eleonore Kofman and Agnes Simic)

 ‘The MM Case and the Public Interest: How did the Government make its Case?’ (2017) Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law 31(3) 227-243

‘"A Thing Apart": Controlling Male Family Migration to the UK' Men and Masculinities (2015) 18 (4), 424-447

'The Invisible (Migrant) Man: Introduction to Special Issue’ Men and Masculinities  (2015) 18(4) 403-423 (with Katharine Charsley)

'Implementation of Directive 2004/38 in the United Kingdom' Revista del Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social: Migraciones Internacionales (2014) 110 63-93 (with Alison Hunter)

'A Family Resemblance? The Regulation of Marriage Migration in Europe' European Journal of Migration and Law (2014) 16(2) 209-247 (with Agnes Agoston and Jocelyn Hutton)

‘Greater than the sum of their parts: UK Supreme Court Decisions on Family Migration’ Public Law (October 2013) 838-860

‘Regulating Spousal Migration in Denmark’ Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law (2013) 27(2) 139-161

'Teixeira and Ibrahim: Looking back, looking forward or looking inward?' FMW: Online journal on free movement of workers in the European Union; (2011) 2 (August); 26-37

'Moulding the Migrant Family' (2009) Legal Studies 29(4) 592-618

‘The Points Based System: A Blunt Instrument’ Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law (2009) 23(3) 231-251

 ‘The Aliens Act 1905 and the Immigration Dilemma’ Journal of Law and Society (2006) 33(2) 302-323

‘An Ideal Husband? Marriages of Convenience, Moral Gatekeeping and Immigration to the UK’ European Journal of Migration and Law; (2006) 8 (Autumn) 303-320

‘Guiding the gatekeepers: entry clearance for settlement on the Indian sub-continent’ Tottell’s Journal of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law (2006) 20(2) 112-129

‘Legal Needs Research in a Local Community’ Civil Justice Quarterly (2000) 19 386 – 404

Book Chapters:

'What do states regulate when they regulate spousal migration?' in D'Aoust, A-M ed. Transantional Marriage and Partner Migration: Constellations of Security, Citizenship and Rights (Rutgers University Press, 2021)

‘The "pure" relationship, sham marriages and immigration control' in Miles, J., Probert, R. and Mody, P. eds. Marriage Rites and Rights (Hart Publishing 2015) 141-165

'Family Migration and New Labour' in Juss, S. ed. Research Companion to Migration Theory and Practice (Ashgate 2013) 639-660.

'Anytime, Any Place Anywhere: Entry Clearance, Marriage Migration and   Immigration to the UK' in Charsley, K. ed. Transnational marriage: new perspectives from Europe and beyond (Routledge 2012) 41-59

‘An ideal husband? Marriages of convenience, moral gate-keeping and immigration to the United Kingdom’ in Minderhoud, P and Guild, E. eds Citizens and Third Country Nationals: Examining Ten Years of the EU's Area of Freedom, Security of Justice (Martinus Nijhoff 2011) 351-373

‘Hidden purpose: ethnic minority international marriages and “intention to live together”’ in Shah, P. and Menski, W. eds. Migration, Diasporas and Legal Systems in Europe (Routledge-Cavendish 2006) 163-184

Research Reports:          

Spouse and Partner Immigration to the United Kingdom: History and Current Issues in British Immigration Policy (Université de Québec à Montréal, January 2017; in French and English) (with Jocelyn Hutton)

Family Friendly? The Impact on Children of the Family Migration Rules: A Review of the Financial Requirements (Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England 2015) (Lead author; with Saira Grant, Eleonore Kofman and Charlotte Peel)

Research group links

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 Helena welcomes enquiries from students interested in researching migration law related subjects.

She has supervised or is currently supervising PhD students on a range of subjects including the human rights of migrant domestic workers, migration and human dignity, the relationship between legal advisers and unaccompanied children, and remote immigration bail hearings. 

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Modules taught

  • LAW3204 - Migrants, Refugees and Citizens in the UK
  • LAWM161 - Migration, citizenship and asylum in international law

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