06 Apr, 2024 11:13 AM

UK Visa Rules Changes: Spouse Visa Minimum Income Threshold Increase to £29,000 on 11 April 2024

On 4 December 2023 the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, announced five changes to UK visa rules. In that announcement the Home Secretary described a “five-point plan” to reduce immigration. 

Some of the changes announced have already come into force and most of the remaining changes will come into force by 11 April 2024 – please find the details below.

The five changes announced include the followings: 
⦁    Social care workers are no longer allowed to bring dependants (partners and children) on their visa.
⦁    The minimum salary to sponsor a Skilled Worker visa is to rise from £26,200 to £38,700, except for the Health and Care Worker visa. 
⦁    The minimum income required to sponsor a spouse/partner is rising in stages from 18,600 per year to £29,000 and then ultimately around £38,700.
⦁    Changes to the Shortage Occupation List to reduce the number of jobs where it will be possible to sponsor someone for a Skilled Worker visa on less than the usual minimum salary.  
⦁    A review of the Graduate visa, a two-year unsponsored work permit for overseas graduates of British universities.

The details when the changes will come into effect: 
⦁    Spouse/partner visa minimum income increase in three stages: 
⦁    the minimum income will first increase to £29,000 on 11 April 2024; 
⦁    then minimum income will increase to around £34,500 at an unspecified time later in 2024; and 
⦁    finally to around £38,700 “by early 2025”.

There will no longer be a separate child element to the minimum income requirement.

⦁    The ban on newly arriving care workers bringing immediate family has been in place since 11 March 2024. 
⦁    The Skilled Worker minimum salary increases will happen on 4 April 2024.
⦁    An interim Immigration Salary List, replacing the Shortage Occupation List, will also come in on 4 April 2024. 
⦁    The review of the Graduate visa has begun, and Home Secretary asked for a report by 14 May 2024.

The right for international students to bring dependants has been removed from January 2024, unless they are on postgraduate courses designated as research programmes. 

Transitional Exemptions: 
There are transitional exemptions for those extending their spouse/partner visa on or after 11 April 2024. The increased minimum income threshold from £18,600 to the £29,000 for spouse/partner visa will only apply to first-time visa applicants. The higher threshold will not apply to visa extensions.

With regards to the transitional arrangements as announced by the Home Office and published on 14 March 2024:

“There are transitional arrangements for those who, before 11 April, already have a Family visa within the fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner or five-year partner route, or who applied before 11 April and are being granted. Once a minimum income requirement (MIR) has been met, the same MIR must be met through to settlement on the route, provided the applicant is applying to stay with the same partner.”

House of Commons Library, Research Briefing published on 14th March 2024 explained this transition arrangements in the following terms:

“This means that someone whose fiancé(e), partner or spouse applies for a visa before 11 April 2024 will only need to demonstrate a minimum income of £18,600 per year. This transitional exemption will apply to their initial visa application, future visa extension applications, and future applications for settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain).”

Therefore, those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold. This will also be the case for children seeking to join or accompany parents.

However, those already in the UK on a different route who apply to switch into the five-year partner route, after the minimum income requirement has been increased, will be subject to the new income requirement.

Higher £38,700 salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa: 
With regards to the higher £38,700 salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa, the Immigration Rules changes published on 14 March 2024 confirm that someone who had a Skilled Worker visa before 4 April 2024, and applies to extend it or for settlement before 4 April 2030, only needs to meet a salary threshold of £29,000 rather than £38,700.

According to the Ministry for Legal Migration, “Those already in the Skilled work route, and applications made before the rules change, will not be subject to the new £38,700 salary threshold when they change employment, extend, or settle”.

Finally, it should be noted here that the Home Secretary made changes to the Immigration Rules through statement of changes presented to Parliament pursuant to section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. The Government has laid two statements before Parliament to implement the above changes, one on 19 February 2024 (care worker dependants) and another on 14 March 2024 (family and work visa income thresholds). Statements of changes laid down before Parliament take effect automatically as the administration function under the Immigration Acts, which regulates entry into and the stay of persons in the United Kingdom, unless either the House of Commons or House of Lords actively votes to annul them within 40 days. In this case it is unlikely that MPs be voting to approve, reject or amend the changes.

*Khaled Noor is a Barrister-at-Law (N/P) and Solicitor. He is the Principal solicitor at Blackstones Solicitors specialising in immigration & human rights, family and commercial property laws.
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