If the last year has taught us anything, it is the importance of spending time with our family and loved ones. For many, this has been a challenge because of the lockdown restrictions that have been imposed.
British Citizens, certain EEA Citizens and other individuals who are settled in the UK face the additional hurdle of visa requirements to reunite their family, or remain together in the UK. Not only does this require establishing a genuine and subsisting relationship, satisfying the correct level of English language and demonstrating suitability, but the financial requirement must also be met (unless exempt).
This has become a real concern for those who have lost their jobs, been furloughed or seen a decline in their income. However, the Government has stepped in to offer some aid “…to ensure applicants are not disadvantaged as a result of circumstances beyond their control because of COVID-19”.
What is the minimum income requirement to sponsor a partner and or children?
Under Appendix-FM of the Immigration Rules, you must, in most cases, meet the minimum income requirement to sponsor your partner and children who are overseas nationals. The exact threshold depends on how many of your family members are applying.
For a spouse, it is necessary to demonstrate a gross annual income of £18,600 per year or, in the absence of income, to hold £62,500 in savings. This level of income increases where a child/children are also to be sponsored:
- First child: Add £3,800 (£22,400)
- Second child: Add an additional £2,400 (£24,800)
- For each additional child: Add a further £2,400
Applicants are also required to provide a set of documents known as ‘specified evidence’. It could include items such as pay slips, bank statements, letters from employers, business accounts, proof of registration with HMRC, pension statements, etc. The exact items required will depend on:
- The sources of income being used to meet the requirement; and
- The relevant period for the application.
Acceptable sources of income that can be used to meet the financial requirement for sponsoring overseas nationals:
- Employment income
- Self-employment income
- Dividend/investment income
- Cash savings
- Pension income
- Property rental income
- Specified maternity allowance or bereavement benefits
- Specified payments relating to service in HM Forces
What concessions have been introduced by the Home Office for overseas partners and children seeking to join or remain with family in the UK?
It has been confirmed that applicants can rely on income received via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or the Coronavirus Self-Employment Scheme. (Generally, income received from the Government would not be permitted).
The latest version of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance, posted on 5th February 2021, clarifies that concessions will apply where there is a temporary loss of income between 1st March 2020 and 31st May 2021*. The concessions are:
“If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 31 May 2021, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.
If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed we will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.
If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.”
They have also stated that the Home Office may be able to decide applications without seeing certain documents, if they cannot be obtained due to coronavirus.
*These concessions were first published in June 2020 and initially applied only for loss of income up to the end of August 2020. They were later extended to 1st January 2021 and then again until 31st May 2021. This period may be extended, or the concessions changed, as the pandemic progresses.
Who can benefit from Home Office financial requirement concessions when applying for family visas
The concessions will apply to applications from overseas (for entry clearance) or in the UK (for limited or indefinite leave to remain).
Anyone applying as a spouse, fiancé, unmarried partner or civil partner will be able to benefit.
It is important to note that the financial requirement is still very much in place and the concessions only apply where the loss of income was because of coronavirus. Those who were not able to meet the minimum income requirement before 1st March 2020 will be in no better position. These individuals may need to consider alternative options or plan for a future application.