Following the decision in MM (Lebanon) & Others v SSHD  UKSC 10, new Immigration Rules have been drafted to explain what sources of income can be used by a family wanting to live together in the UK. Those rules are not straightforward, with some details which may still catch out a visa hopeful. With that in mind, these are the 5 things we think you should understand before the rules change in August 2017.
1. The £18,600+ requirement stays the same for most people
The MM case didn't get rid of the requirement to meet a basic income requirement. That stays the same at £18,600 to sponsor your partner, £22,400 to sponsor a partner and child, and increasing with each additional child included in the application. What MM has done is force UK Visas and Immigration to widen the pool of acceptable sources of income, giving families more opportunities to show that they meet the requirements of the rules.
2. Additional sources of permitted income can only be relied upon when there are 'exceptional circumstances'
Not all families will benefit from the August rule changes. A visa officer will only be required to consider additional sources of income when there are "exceptional circumstances". There is no definition of what those circumstances might be, but the new rules refer to "unjustifiably harsh circumstances" for the applicant or their partner or child. This is an undefined concept, meaning that it will not always be obvious whether a family will qualify to rely on additional sources of funding. The evidence of your circumstances will be crucial (see below).
3. Only certain extra sources of income will count
The explanation in the Immigration Rules is quite wide, and it explicitly covers the following:
- Guaranteed sustainable support from a third party (eg parents)
- Sustainable prospective UK earnings from employment or self-employment
- Any other reliable source of income which is available to couple
Note the focus on 'income, which excludes some finances: personal loans will not be acceptable, for example. It is also important to consider that the funding must be 'sustainable', meaning that there must be sufficient evidence of what is available, from who and for how long.
4. The onus is on you to prove your circumstances and the income available
Anyone who has already prepared a UK visa application will know that you must provide very clear evidence at every stage. This will apply not just to proving the income on which you want to rely, but also demonstrating that you qualify to rely on those additional sources in the first place. This means clear documentary proof of family circumstances not always relevant to a visa application, such as health concerns. In addition, there is a focus in the new rules on providing satisfactory evidence of the "genuineness, credibility and reliability" of any extra income, which will mean many more documents will be needed for a visa officer to accept that the funds are sufficient.
5. The new rules make it harder for you to settle in the UK permanently
The new rules set out a 10-year route to permanent settlement in the UK, twice the length of residence required by those who satisfy the 'normal' income rules. This is not something that MM considered or approved, but it is a measure already used by UK Visas and Immigration for those qualifying for exemption from some of the standard visa requirements. A longer qualification period means more applications to submit, which in turn means more money to pay as you work towards settlement. This means that the rule changes come at a price, paid by families who can potentially ill-afford it.