Amidst the backlash and uncertainty behind abruptly increasing the yearly income threshold for family visa applications, the United Kingdom (UK) government has revised its decision.
The minimum salary threshold of family visa applications was set to increase from £18,600 to £38,700 in spring 2024.
“We’re doing exactly as we said we would. We’re just doing it in two stages,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as reported by the BBC.
He added, “So it will go up in a few months’ time, and then it will go up again the full amount in early 2025.”
“If people are bringing dependants into this country as part of their family, they must be able to support them,” the Prime Minister stressed.
According to a media factsheet on net migration measures released by the UK government, based on ASHE earnings data and all else constant, 75% of the UK working population currently meets the minimum income requirement (MIR) level of £18,600.
The median salary level for those on the skilled worker route is presently at £38,700. If the MIR is raised to the same amount, only about 30 percent of the UK working population could meet the threshold based on earnings alone.
Phased increase of family visa income threshold
Lord Sharpe of Epsom, Under Secretary of State for the UK Home Office, wrote in reply to a Parliamentary question that the hike in family visa salary threshold will be rolled out in stages.
“The MIR will be increased in incremental stages to give predictability,” Lord Sharpe wrote on 21 December 2023.
In Spring 2024, the government will raise the salary threshold to £29,000, the 25th percentile of earnings for jobs eligible for skilled worker visas.
It will then increase the MIR to the 40th percentile, currently £34,500. Finally, it will raise the salary threshold to the 50th percentile or £38,700.
The second increase may take effect in late 2024. The final hike will likely occur in 2025, as hinted at by the Prime Minister.
The Home Office has not specified the exact effective dates of the succeeding phased increases.
The new family visa income threshold will not affect renewals
The new salary threshold for family visas will only apply to first-time applicants. Family visa renewals and permanent residency applications will not be affected.
Individuals with a five-year partner family visa route will have their applications evaluated based on the current income MIR. The same applies to those who submitted their application before the MIR is increased.
Individuals applying for permanent residence after being on a spouse/partner visa may also be exempted from the higher salary threshold.
However, those already in the UK on a different route and plan to switch to the five-year partner route will be subject to the new income requirement.
The UK government said it will release any transitional provisions regarding family visa renewals in January 2024.
Skilled worker visa income threshold clarifications
The new media factsheet also confirmed the increase of the MIR to £38,700 for skilled worker visas in April 2024.
In a separate parliamentary query, Tom Pursglove, Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery, said the change will not be retroactive.
“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,” Minister Pursglove wrote.
However, the government expects the workers’ pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers.
When skilled workers next apply to change employment, extend their stay, or settle, they will be subject to the latest pay data at the 25th percentile.
Reducing net migration
The British government stressed that current regulations are still in effect.
“Until the Immigration Rules are amended next Spring, the current salary and Minimum Income Requirement thresholds, and policies relating to dependants, remain in place and at the current levels,” Minister Pursglove wrote.
Early in December, Home Office Secretary James Cleverly announced immigration policy changes to reduce net migration.
Two significant changes are raising the salary threshold for skilled workers and family visas to £38,700 yearly. The only exemption is for health and care workers and roles on national pay scales, such as teachers.
The policy change for family visa applications ensures that individuals can financially support their dependants in the UK without relying on public funds.
Another substantial change is banning health and social care workers from bringing dependants to the UK.
The 2022 net migration numbers also saw more visas for families and dependants coming to the country.