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The financial (minimum income) requirement for partner visas

Published Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Controversial maintenance funds requirements were introduced for spouse/ partner visas (affecting non-EEA national partners of British citizens, refugees and people settled in the UK) in July 2012. Various migrants' rights organisations continue to campaign against the Rules. Following legal challenges to the lawfulness of the Rules, the Supreme Court held the minimum income requirement to be acceptable in principle.

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In July 2012 the Immigration Rules were amended to require non-EEA national applicants to meet a financial, minimum-income requirement in order to secure a visa to join a spouse or partner in the UK. The sponsoring spouse or partner is required to show a minimum gross annual income (or equivalent in cash savings) of £18,600. A higher amount is required when visas are also sought for non‑EEA national dependent children.

A visa applicant’s own employment income can only be taken into account if they are already in the UK with permission to work.

Various migrants’ rights groups campaign against the minimum income requirement, which they consider to be unfair, disproportionate and counter-productive. In June 2013 a report by members of the APPG on Migration called for an independent review of the requirement and its impact. 

The Coalition Government made some minor adjustments to the policy, but overall was satisfied that it operated as intended. It considered that the maintenance rules ensure that families are able to support themselves and the migrant partner’s integration without being a burden on the general taxpayer. The current Conservative Government has not indicated a different view.

The lawfulness of the Rules was challenged in the courts. On 22 February 2017 the Supreme Court handed down its judgment. It held the minimum income requirement is acceptable in principle. However it found that the Rules and the Immigration Directorate Instruction giving guidance to entry clearance officers unlawfully fail to take proper account of the Secretary of State’s duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when making decisions which affect them. The Court also held that the Rules and guidance need to be amended to take proper account of other possible sources of income and third-party financial support.

Commons Briefing papers SN06724

Authors: Melanie Gower; Terry McGuinness

Topic: Immigration

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