In a notable shift, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has withdrawn from his initial plan to significantly increase the income requirement for UK residents wishing to sponsor a foreign spouse or partner. This reversal occurred less than three weeks after the initial policy announcement.
The income threshold for sponsorship, previously set to escalate to £38,700, will rise modestly from the current £18,600 to £29,000 in the upcoming spring. The Home Office has yet to confirm a date for reaching the initially proposed amount. This moderated increase is projected to reduce annual immigration by 10,000 to 30,000.
This policy adjustment will be applicable solely to new visa applicants. Current UK residents with family visas will continue to be subject to the existing £18,600 threshold for visa extensions.
The revised policy also encompasses members of the armed forces intending to bring a foreign spouse or partner to the UK.
The initial policy faced substantial criticism for potentially disrupting family unity and compelling non-citizens to depart from the UK. Groups like Reunite Families have even initiated legal challenges against the policy.
The Migration Advisory Committee highlighted concerns about the disruptive impact on marriage plans, as many residents intending to marry foreign nationals may fail to meet the revised income requirements.
The modified policy mandates a minimum annual income of £29,000 or equivalent savings for British residents seeking to live in the UK with a foreign spouse or partner. This threshold, unchanged since its 2012 introduction at £18,600, aims to ensure that foreign partners are not financially dependent on the state.
The Home Office disclosed this policy shift in a detailed impact assessment document, originally part of a broader immigration reduction strategy announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly on December 4.
The Home Office estimates that 50-60% of the UK population meets the new £29,000 threshold. It also clarified that savings and non-employment income are considered in meeting this requirement.
Despite the revision, some conservative MPs like Miriam Cates express concerns over the UK's high immigration levels and the government's commitment to reducing them.
Finally, the document anticipates an increase in successful family life claims, protected under the European Convention of Human Rights, due to the new income threshold.
In summary, these amendments to immigration rules are part of the government's broader objective to reduce immigration inflows by approximately 300,000 per year.
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