Spouse visa minimum income requirement is expected to rise incrementally during the coming year. Since 2012, the minimum income requirement for the spouse visa has been set at £18,600 per year. The same threshold applies for the initial application, extension application and indefinite leave to remain. According to the Home Office policy announcement, it is to increase to £29,000 in spring 2024, then to £34,500 later this year, and then to £38,700 next year. The £38,700 threshold will bring it inline with the new minimum threshold to be introduced for the skilled worker visas in 2024.
There are no further details as to how these changes will be implemented.
Currently, couples with non-British children have to demonstrate additional income above the set threshold. The policy paper does not address this, but lawyers speculate that no additional income to cover the cost of maintenance of children should be added, as none is added for the dependents of skilled workers.
Immigration lawyers anticipate that people with the initial grant of leave under the current rules will be permitted to make their applications for extension of stay and indefinite leave to remain on the basis of the same income threshold. It is not entirely clear if transitional arrangements will protect those who entered the UK on a fiancé visa, although it is expected that their income threshold should also be ringfenced.
All this, however, will add complexity to the rules especially if changes are implemented “incrementally” – there will be four groups of people with different income thresholds at the same time and it will not be immediately obvious which threshold applies. Generally, it is the time of the application which determines the applicable rule, not the date on which permission to enter or remain was granted. Yet, the date of the application is not recorded on the applicant’s BRP card or any official document the visa applicant receives from the Home Office. Thus, there may be a confusion which income threshold applies when an application for further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain is met.
Further, it is not clear if the proposed changes will affect people with disability related benefits who currently do not have to meet the minimum income requirement as long as their partner can be maintained in the UK without recourse to public funds.
The rule will be particularly harsh on pensioners – a number of our clients in retirement could meet the minimum income threshold of £18,600 relying on their pension income, sometimes topped up by a rental income from property. The number of retired UK residents with pension income meeting the new requirements will be vastly reduced. Although pension income of the non-British partner can be taken into the calculation of income, applicants from countries with lower cost of living and lower pensions will be automatically put into disadvantage.
People with child care commitments, especially women, who are unable to take full time employment as a single parent will certainly struggle to meet the new thresholds.
The policy paper states that applications from partners of settled residents who are unable to meet the minimum income requirement would still be considered and exceptional circumstances would be taken into account. Quite possibly, more applications will be made under the 10-year rule – where three applications for extension have to be made before the applicant qualifies for indefinite leave to remain. This will allow the government to increase revenue in visa fees and Immigration Health Surcharge. Unfortunately, this revenue will again be coming from the poorer members of the community.
The alleged rationale that the government does not want the non-British partners to be sponsored through the public funds is a shameless red herring. Public funds are not available anyway to partners of British citizens during the five or ten years that they are on the spouse visa. Even where state support is calculated per household income, no funding is available where one member of the couple is excluded from public funds.
Sadly, the new rules will make Britain, and make Britain look, more hostile to marriages across the border as well as to any “aliens” (“foreigners”, “immigrants”, “migrants”) other than high net worth individuals or high achievers rewarded in monetary terms.
If you are considering joining your partner in the UK and financial requirements are a matter of concern, you still have time to take advantage of the current income thresholds.
If you need legal advice, please book an appointment with one of the lawyers who will be happy to discuss your circumstances and suggest the best immigration strategy for you.