News & Insights

Government U-turn on Minimum Salary for Family Visas

The government have reversed plans to increase the salary requirement for those on family visas from £18,600 to £38,700 following criticism that the move would separate families.

In December 2023, the Home Secretary announced a raft of changes to UK immigration policy. A summary of these changes can be found here.

These measures include a proposal to increase the minimum income requirement for those applying for family visas from £18,600 to £38,700. This increase would bring the income requirement for family visas in line with the new minimum salary threshold for those applying for a Skilled Worker visa.

The Government believes this measure will ensure that migrants only bring dependents to the UK if they can support themselves financially. They further clarified that this change would apply to all British and settled sponsors applying under the five-year Partner route.

When the new measures were unveiled, the government announced that the change to the financial threshold for family visas would take effect in Spring 2024, leaving little time for those who are looking to apply for a family visa, or to switch into the five-year Partner route, to plan.

As expected, the lack of detail provided by the Government faced criticism from opposition parties and campaign groups, who condemned the lack of consultation done by the government before announcing the change. Unsurprisingly and less than three weeks after the initial announcement, the Government have made a U-turn on these proposals and have now confirmed that the minimum income requirement for family visas will be increased incrementally, with the first increase being from £18,600 to £29,000 on 11 April 2024, rather than an immediate jump from £18,600 to £38,700.

Following this announcement, the Home Office released a fact sheet which confirms as follows:

  • If an applicant already has a family visa (such as a Spouse visa, Civil Partner visa or Unmarried Partner visa) on the five-year route and they wish to apply to extend their stay or settle in the UK, their application will not be assessed against the increased threshold of £29,000 and instead will be assessed on the current income requirement of £18,600. This will also be the case for any children of the applicant who seek to join their parent.
  • If an applicant applies for a family visa on the five-year route before the minimum threshold increase comes into force, any such application will be measured against the current threshold level of £18,600 and not the increased threshold of £29,000.
  • If an applicant has been granted a Fiancée visa before the threshold is increased, and plans on then applying for a family visa on the five-year partner route, the applicant will be measured against the current threshold level and not the increased threshold level.
  • If an applicant does not already have a family visa on the five-year partner route, or an applicant is already in the UK on a different route and wishes to switch into the five-year partner route after the threshold is increased in spring, then the applicant will be subject to the new minimum income threshold of £29,000.

Despite the change of plan, the policy to increase the minimum salary threshold to £29,000 is still facing criticism, on the basis that the new threshold is above the average UK working salary, which may make joining family in the UK unachievable for many applicants – in particular, those on minimum wage. The Guardian recently reported that, at the current £18,600 threshold, 75% of people could afford to have family members join them; if it was set at £38,700, just 40% would be able to afford it, with this percentage further reduced to 25% for those in the north-east of England.

Despite criticism, the Government has not yet abandoned its plans to eventually introduce the £38,700 minimum threshold. It would appear that the current timetable would see the threshold rise from £18,600 to £29,000 on 11 April 2024, then to £34,500 later in 2024, and finally to £38,700 in early 2025. However, the impending General Election, expected to take place in late 2024, calls into question whether these further increases will ever take effect.

If you believe the new financial requirement will apply to you and are concerned about the increase, you may be eligible to apply for an exemption under the Appendix FM financial requirement. These applications are complex, but we would be happy to advise – you can get in touch with us at [email protected]