Spouse Visa

Home Office sets out phased approach to increasing the spousal visa salary threshold

By Amer Zaman

on February 21, 2024

Read Time: 9 Minutes

In early December 2023, the UK Government found itself in political trouble in relation to measures it had set out to attempt to drive down recently high net migration numbers. Much of the controversy related to big increases in salary thresholds, including in relation to family visas.  

With family visas – including the spousal visa – being subject to a hefty jump in the minimum income requirement, the Home Office stood accused by some observers and affected parties of disrupting, or even separating, families in the UK.

As things presently stand, if someone from outside of the UK wishes to apply for a spouse visa in order to live with their spouse for more than six months in the UK, they and their partner must have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year.

Under the plans initially announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly on 4th December, this minimum income amount had been set to rise to £38,700, with effect from the spring of 2024. It was part of a package of measures that, in Mr Cleverly’s words at the time, “will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so.”

U-turn sees Home Office increase the income threshold incrementally

Fast-forward to 21st December 2023 – less than three weeks on from the aforementioned announcement – and the Government confirmed it had revised its approach. This means that, as of the latest information we have, the partner and family visa minimum income requirement will still increase in the spring of this year, but ‘only’ to £29,000, rather than the £38,700 that had originally been announced.

There may, however, be limited reason for cheer for many families who might have been alarmed by the original confirmation of the hiked minimum income requirement, and who may have been concerned about their ability to satisfy such criteria.

Firstly, the Government made clear in an associated factsheet that it still intended to eventually increase the minimum income threshold for family visas – including spousal visas – to £38,700, to bring it in line with the new minimum general salary threshold for Skilled Worker visa holders.

Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom confirmed in response to a Parliamentary question that, after the increase to £29,000 in the spring, the Government planned to eventually heighten the threshold further to £34,500, and then to £38,700. He did not provide any specific dates for these rises. However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it would be “early 2025” when the £38,700 income requirement came into effect.

The Government’s factsheet said it had decided to put up the minimum income requirement for family visas “incrementally, in stages, to give predictability to families.”

Concerns have been raised, however, that even the initial new threshold of £29,000 will still be quite a daunting one for many affected families. Indeed, a policy document has indicated that the still significantly increased £29,000 requirement could contribute a “low tens of thousands” reduction towards the Government’s overall target of driving down legal migration.

This is without accounting for the greater complexity and uncertainty that many couples will face as a result of the incremental rises; some prospective applicants may initially believe they need to satisfy a higher, or lower, income requirement for a spousal visa than is actually the case.

Overall, despite the Government having backed down from its earlier plan of heightening the spousal visa minimum income requirement directly from £18,600 to £38,700 in the spring of 2024, concerns persist that the increase to £29,000 could still prevent many thousands of couples from living together in the UK.

What are the income requirements for a spouse visa in the UK in 2024?

As of the time of typing in January 2024, in order for someone to be approved for a spouse visa in the UK, the applicant and their partner must have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year.

Those who wish to apply for a family visa as a spouse are subject to this £18,600 threshold, as are spousal visa applicants who wish to settle in the UK – in other words, achieve “indefinite leave to remain” status – within five years.

There are certain circumstances, however, in which an applicant for a UK family visa will be required to prove they have extra money, on top of the aforementioned figure. This includes if they have children who:

It may not be necessary for an applicant for a UK family visa to prove they have extra money if their children are citizens of the European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland and these children do not have pre-settled status or are permanently settled in the UK. More information about this can be found in UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)’s Appendix FM 1.7: financial requirement guidance, and our experts at Cranbrook Legal can also advise you if you are unsure.

In the event that you are required to prove you have extra money for your children, you will be expected to earn an additional:

  • £3,800 a year for your first child
  • £2,400 a year for each child you have after your first child

The Government has confirmed, however, that with effect from the spring of 2024, there will no longer be a separate child element to the spousal visa minimum income requirement. So, if you do apply for your spouse visa from this point onwards, you won’t need to worry about ensuring you have additional funds for each of your children.

It is important to note that it may be possible for you to use savings instead of income in order to satisfy the minimum income requirement. You should also bear in mind that there are various forms of proof of your income that you may be able to provide with your application, such as bank statements and payslips.

For further advice and guidance in relation to all these aspects of applying for a family or spousal visa for the UK, please don’t hesitate to arrange your free consultation with one of our specialists in UK immigration law today. You are also welcome to call us, on 0208 215 0053.

If you may be affected by the higher income requirement, what steps should you take now?

The news of the UK Government deciding to take a more incremental approach to putting up the minimum income requirement for spousal visas than it had initially planned, might provide a degree of respite to some couples who would have been adversely impacted by the previous proposals.

However, it is crucial to emphasise that the Government has not abandoned its plan to bring in a £38,700 a year income threshold for family visas, including the spousal visa; it has merely chosen to do so on a slightly more extended schedule than it had originally announced.

If, then, you are concerned that as a couple, you may struggle to satisfy the £29,000 requirement that will take effect from the spring of 2024, the £34,500 threshold that will presumably come into force later in 2024, or the £38,700 level from early next year, you might consider applying for a spouse visa before these heightened amounts are introduced.

A key factor in your decision on whether to apply earlier for your spousal visa could be the Government’s confirmation – in its aforementioned factsheet – that those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply prior to the minimum income threshold being increased, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement. In other words, they will not need to satisfy the heightened income threshold.

Alternatively, you might not have the option of applying earlier for a spousal visa, which may mean you need to satisfy one of the increased thresholds for your application in 2024 or 2025. If this is the case for you, and you are concerned that you may be unable to meet the income requirement that applies at the time of your spouse visa application, you might still be able to enter or remain in the UK after spring 2024, provided that you invoke an exception to the financial requirement. Setting out why your own application should constitute an exception to the Appendix FM financial requirement can be a complicated matter. So, if you do believe this could be the set of circumstances you face as a prospective UK spousal visa applicant, please feel free to reach out to our specialists in UK immigration law at Cranbrook Legal today, so that we can give you suitably tailored advice.

Is it easy to get a UK spouse visa?  

Even before these new, heightened income requirements were announced, the UK spousal visa did not have a reputation of being an easy visa to obtain. It is an immigration route that is subject to strict eligibility criteria, and that was already known for its expensive application process.

If you are a foreign national who wishes to apply for a spousal visa for the UK, you and your partner will both need to be 18 years of age or older.

In addition, your spouse must either:

  • Be a British or Irish citizen
  • Have settled in the UK, which could mean them having “indefinite leave to remain” status, settled status, or proof of permanent residence
  • Be from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, and have pre-settled status – they must have begun living in the UK prior to 1 January 2021
  • Have a Turkish Businessperson visa or a Turkish Worker visa
  • Have protection status (leave to remain as a refugee, permission to stay as a refugee or a person with humanitarian protection)

Another essential requirement is for you and your spouse to intend to live together permanently in the UK following your application for this visa. It will also be necessary to prove that you have good knowledge of the English language.

The above is not an exhaustive rundown of the criteria you can expect to need to fulfil if you apply for a UK spousal visa. So, if you do wish to maximise your chances of being approved for this highly in-demand visa, you are strongly urged to seek out legal advice from reputable professionals, such as our own award-winning experts in UK immigration law at Cranbrook Legal.

Contact our team for help and advice in relation to a UK spouse visa application

Whatever your exact circumstances and requirements may be right now, if you have any questions about any of the current or future criteria for the UK spouse visa, or if you would like to receive direct help with your application through this visa route, please feel free to contact us.

Our Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)-regulated lawyers have long provided a comprehensive project-managed service for those who wish to be granted a spousal visa enabling them to live with their partner in the UK. Furthermore, we have an excellent success rate when it comes to such applications. To find out more about our highly acclaimed service and how we may be able to help you, please call us on 0208 215 0053 now, or complete and submit our online form to arrange a free consultation with one of our solicitors.

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