On 4 December 2023 the Home Secretary announced that the minimum income requirement for UK partner visas would go up to £38,700 in the spring of 2024.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of increases to application fees, and plans to raise the Immigration Health Surcharge in January 2024.
What is the minimum income requirement?
If you apply for a visa or leave to remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK, you must normally be able to show that you have access to a minimum annual income. This is currently set at £18,600, but under the new proposals it will be £38,700.
If you are bringing a child with you to the UK, and that child is not British or settled, then the minimum income requirement will be higher. At present, you must have an extra £3,800 per year for the first child, and £2,400 for each additional child. The Government has not yet said how these amounts will be changed in line with the increase in the minimum income requirement.
How can I meet the minimum income requirement?
You can count various different kinds of income towards the income requirement. There are different ways to calculate your income, depending on the source of your funds, and whether you are applying for a visa, leave to remain, or settlement.
One of the most common ways to meet the requirement is to show that your British or settled sponsor has been employed in the UK for at least 6 months with an annual salary of £18,600. However, depending on your circumstances you might also be able to count income from self-employment, a pension, property rental income, or savings.
The amount of savings you need is calculated based on the minimum income requirement. At the moment, if you do not have any other sources of income you can count towards the income requirement, you need £62,500 in savings. If the same calculation is applied to the new income requirement, then you will need savings of £112,750.
Are there any exemptions to the minimum income requirement?
If your partner is claiming one of a limited set of benefits (including Personal Independence Payment and Carer's Allowance), then the minimum income requirement does not apply to your application. Instead, you must show that there is "adequate maintenance" available for you and your family in the UK. This is normally defined as an income that is at least the level of income support an equivalent-sized family would receive, after you have paid your rent and council tax.
If you are applying for leave to remain in the UK, and there are "insurmountable obstacles" to you and your partner living together outside the UK, or if it would not be reasonable to expect your child to leave the UK (if that child is British, or has lived in the UK for at least 7 years), then the minimum income requirement does not apply to your application at all.
If you are not exempt from the minimum income requirement, the Immigration Rules say that if you cannot meet the financial requirement from the sources approved in the Rules, but you have other sources of money to meet the requirement, then your application can still succeed if refusal "could result in unjustifiably harsh consequences" for you, your partner or a "relevant child". A "relevant child" is a child under the age of 18 who it is evident would be affected by a refusal decision.
If you cannot meet the income requirement at all, then the application can only succeed if refusal "would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences".
Unless you are applying on the basis of "adequate maintenance", if you are granted leave to remain in the UK because of an exemption from the income requirement, you will be put on the "10-year route to settlement", instead of the normal 5-year route.
We do not yet know whether there will be changes to these exemptions when the minimum income requirement is increased.
What can I do about the increase in the minimum income requirement?
We do not yet know exactly when and how the increase will be imposed. Changes to the Immigration Rules are normally imposed so that they apply to applications made after a certain date. This means that when the changes are announced, you might still have time to make your application under the old rules.
It would also be sensible for changes to apply only to applicants who are not already on the family visa route, so that family members are not refused when they make applications to renew their status from spring 2024 onwards. However, we do not know if this is a concession that the Government will make.
If you are already in the UK, and have children who are British, or who have lived in the UK for 7 years, then you are likely ultimately to be granted permission to stay on that basis. However, you will need to provide evidence of your and your children's needs, and be prepared to appeal against any decision to refuse your application. You might be granted leave under the "10-year route" so that it takes you longer to get indefinite leave to remain.
If you were intending to apply after your marriage or civil partnership, you might decide to apply to get into the family visa route earlier, as a fiance or proposed civil partner, or as as an unmarried partners.
You might also consider changes to your financial plans. For example, if you have planned to rely on savings, you might need to increase the level of savings that you hold because you mist be able to show that you have held your savings for at least 6 months when you apply. You or your sponsor might need to consider changing employment, or delaying retirement. You might need to take financial advice about how to manage these changes.