Associate Harry Yu delves into the revised plans by the Home Office regarding the financial requirements for spouse visa applications, revealing adjustments to the minimum income requirement and the formula for calculating minimum savings thresholds.
On 4 December 2023, the Home Office announced intentions to raise the financial requirement for spouse visa applications from £18,600 to £38,700 in Spring 2024, amongst other changes, namely the ‘5-point-plan’. This firm published a commentary on these upcoming changes to UK immigration law.
It has now come to light that the Home Office will be revising their plans to change the financial requirement for Spouse Visa applicants. It was announced on 21 December 2023 that the minimum income requirement for spouse visas will be increased to £29,000 instead of £38,700, but there are plans to bring it up to £38,700 incrementally.
In our previous article on the upcoming changes to immigration law, we explained the formula for calculating the minimum savings threshold for applicants who are relying on cash savings alone. This figure will now be £88,500. This is less than the figure of £112,750 (if the minimum income requirement was increased to £38,700), but still considerably more than the current figure of £62,500.
It should be noted that the rules for calculating the financial requirement when applying from outside of the UK (i.e. entry clearance) versus applying from inside of the UK (leave to remain) is different.
For spouses making their initial application from outside of the UK, the immigration rules give little to no room for discretion when meeting the financial requirement.
For spouses extending their visas from inside of the UK or making their initial applications from inside of the UK, the immigration rules allow the Home Office to waive the financial requirement if paragraph EX.1 is engaged.
Paragraph EX.1 applies in two types of cases:
- If the applicant has a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a child under 18 who is a British citizen and has lived in the UK continuously for seven years. The applicant needs to show that taking into account the best interests of the British child, it would not be reasonable to expect the child to leave the UK
- If the applicant has a genuine and subsisting relationship with a partner who is a British citizen, settled in the UK, has leave under the EU Settlement Scheme or Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay and there are insurmountable obstacles to family life with that partner continuing outside of the UK
Paragraph EX.1 is already a heavily litigated area of immigration law and the courts have in the past taken a stringent approach to interpreting EX.1. The upcoming changes in Spring 2024 will likely lead to more reliance on paragraph EX.1 and subsequently give rise to more case law. It remains to be seen whether the courts will take a different approach in light of these new changes.
Overall, it’s unclear how helpful raising the financial requirement for Spouse Visas will be for reducing net migration. Unlike the other visa categories mentioned in the 5-point-plan, Spouse Visa applicants relying on paragraph EX.1 may have an in-country right of appeal, although such appeals can take a very long time.
Ultimately, the impact of the Home Office’s policy may be that many spouses are put into a precarious situation where they are left with no choice but to rely on paragraph EX.1 and are forced to stay in the UK for years whilst challenging negative decisions. This not only clogs up the court system, but may also discourage applicants from leaving the UK in some cases.