Lords Committee Calls Raising the Minimum Income Requirement for Family Visas “Unfair”

| April 11, 2024
Lords Committee Calls Raising the Minimum Income Requirement for Family Visas Unfair

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee questioned the fairness of raising the minimum income requirement (MIR) to bring a spouse or partner to the UK.

The UK Government will raise the MIR for family-related visas from £18,600 to £29,000 by 11 April.

This will be increased to £38,700 by early 2025, the same amount as the salary threshold for skilled workers.

In its news release about the 20th report for 2023-24, the Scrutiny Committee said the MIR would unfairly affect low-income areas.

The Committee illustrated how the new minimum income requirement affects different areas.

In the North East, the £29,000 MIR will be just below average earnings. It will be well above earnings if it increases to £38,700 in 2025.

On the other hand, the MIR is and will likely remain below average earnings in London.

The Committee stressed, “This means that a person living in London is much more likely to be entitled to bring their partner to the UK than someone living in the North East.”

Different appropriate minimum income requirements

The Committee recognizes that the changes to immigration laws aim to reduce net migration.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, a member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, said the MIR increase is also “intended to make sure that migrants can pay their way.”

“And that does not seem to be reflected in the way the policy has been implemented,” he declared.

Moreover, the Committee also received submissions expressing concerns about raising the MIR’s fairness.

Women from ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, and those in certain regions are at higher risk of low income and will be more impacted by changes.

This is because these groups are more likely to have lower incomes, and it will be harder for them to bring a partner or spouse to the UK.

The Scrutiny Committee noted that the government could generate different appropriate minimum income requirements.

The Home Office still needs to provide its impact assessments of the proposals, including on equality issues.

Lord Thomas emphasized the need to comprehensively evaluate the new regulations to understand their full consequences.

The Committee expressed concerns that the lack of such assessment shows a lack of understanding by the Home Office of the implications of the new policies.

Home Office firm in raising MIR for family visas

Raising the MIR favors the broader goal of fostering a country with a “high-wage, high-productivity, high-skill economy.”

The Home Office also maintains that a higher MIR for family visas is needed to ensure financial support for migrant families in the UK.

The £18,600 MIR for family-related visas has remained the same for over a decade. The income a family requires to be self-sufficient and not rely on public funds has changed.

In its fact sheet, the Home Office stressed that families can still meet the increased MIR in other ways. Savings can count towards meeting the MIR alongside lower income or on their own.

There will also no longer be a separate child element to the MIR. This ensures British nationals receive equal treatment to skilled migrant workers, regardless of sponsored children.

Additionally, the higher minimum income requirement will only apply to new applications and will not be applied retrospectively.

Applications submitted before the rule change will be evaluated based on the MIR at that time.

The UK’s Family Immigration Rules also allow for exceptional circumstances where a refusal would cause unjustifiably harsh outcomes for the applicant or their family.

Other changes to drastically cut net migration

Raising the family visa’s minimum income requirement is part of the Home Office’s significant immigration rule changes announced in December 2023.

The policy changes aim to prevent about 300,000 people from coming to the UK.

From 4 April, the government has increased the general salary threshold for skilled workers to £38,700.

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) has been replaced with the Immigration Salary List (ISL).

The ISL will offer a 20 percent discount on the salary threshold of the jobs included in the list.

The discounted salary thresholds on the ISL will be higher due to the raised minimum salary threshold for skilled workers.

Health and care workers and those on the national pay scale are exempted from this increase.

However, from 11 March, health and care workers can no longer bring dependents to the UK.

Care firms who want to sponsor migrants to work in the UK must also register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

Starting in February, the UK government has also raised the immigration health surcharge for migrants.

At the start of 2024, only select Student visa holders can bring their families to the UK. They will also not be allowed to switch to work visas until they finish their course.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is also currently reviewing the Graduate visa to ensure it is not abused.