Changes to Immigration Rules for family members - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 18 December 2012 | Standard notes SN06353

Amended 09 September 2013

Authors: Melanie Gower

Topic: Immigration

The Immigration Rules for non-EEA nationals seeking permission to stay in the UK as a family member of a British citizen or person settled here have changed. The changes mostly affect persons making new applications on or after 9 July 2012.

The changes affecting spouse/partner/fiancé(e) visa applications are particularly significant. British/settled persons wishing to sponsor their non-EEA national partner to join them in the UK must now demonstrate a minimum gross annual income of £18,600 (more if dependent children are also being sponsored). There are various permitted ways to satisfy the requirement, such as through evidence of employment and non-employment income and/or cash savings. However, the foreign spouse’s overseas employment income cannot be taken into account. Sponsors in receipt of certain disability benefits are currently exempt from the new financial requirement. In addition, foreign spouses/partners now have to wait longer before they become eligible to apply for permanent settlement in the UK (for five years rather than two), and there is a new approach to assessing the ‘genuineness’ of the relationship. The minimum income requirement is discussed in greater detail in standard note SN06724 The financial (minimum income) requirement for partner visas.

There is no minimum income requirement for sponsoring adult or elderly dependent relatives who wish to settle in the UK. However narrower eligibility criteria have been introduced for these visas - only close relatives with a need for long-term personal care, which can only be provided by the relative in the UK, are now eligible.

Furthermore, from October 2013, persons applying to stay permanently in the UK will have to demonstrate intermediate English language skills and pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test.

The Government considers that the previous rules for family members were vulnerable to abuse, didn’t encourage migrants to integrate, and placed a burden on UK taxpayers. It has also referred to its desire to reduce net migration levels as a reason for changing them.

Critics argue that the changes will exacerbate migrants’ difficulties in integrating, and that the financial requirement for spouse/partner applications will have a disproportionate impact on certain groups of sponsors, such as women, ethnic minorities and low-earners.

The changes to the Immigration Rules which affect applications for permission to stay in the UK on the basis of an applicant’s qualified right to respect for private and family life are discussed in standard note SN06355 Article 8 of the ECHR and immigration cases.

Furthermore, family visitor visa applicants’ appeal rights have been restricted. This is discussed in Library standard note SN06363 Immigration: Family visitor visa appeal rights.

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