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Spouse visa new rules – review and impact

June, 2013

The new immigration rules for spouse members commenced on 9 July 2012. The level of financial requirement is £18,600 and increases by £3,800 for the 1st child, and by £2,400 for each additional child. For example:

  • Applicant with no children: £18,600 (gross)
  • 1 child + Applicant: £22,400 (gross)
  • 2 children + Applicant: £24,800 (gross)
  • 3 children + Applicant: £27,200 (gross)

Before 9 July 2012, the old rule required that spouses and partners show they had ‘adequate’ support and would not have recourse to public funds. This means the UK spouse’s income needed to be in excess of income support levels, which is very easy to meet as income support is only about £60 per week. In appeals before 9 July 2012, Judges had a lot of discretion to decide whether or not the applicant would require public funds and if he decided the applicant did not, then the appeal would be allowed. Now, the rule is very strict and if the UK spouse cannot meet the above figures, the visa will be refused.

Assuming the UK spouse wishes to apply for their spouse member in China to come to the UK, then only the UK spouse’s income will count towards meeting the £18,600 requirement. The new law will affect families where the UK spouse:

  • Does not earn more than £18,600 per year (assuming there is no children);
  • Earns more than £18,600 but has not been employed with the same employer for more than 6 months;
  • Has different employers during the past 12 months but his salary does not amount to more than £18,600.

If the applicant is in the UK (ie both spouse members are in the UK), then both of their income can count. However, the applicant is also required to be with the same employer for more than 6 months or meets the salary requirement with different employers for the past 12 months.

Applicants can overcome this problem if the sponsor has cash savings (and the applicant too if she is in the UK) to meet the deficit. The minimum amount of cash savings required is £16,000 and needs to have been held for more than 6 months.

For any shortfall, the following equation is used:

[X (shortfall) x 2.5] + 16,000 = cash savings required

For example, if the UK spouse earns £15,000 then he is short of £3,600. He requires £25,000 cash savings, to be held for 6 months:

[£3,600 x 2.5] + 16,000 = £25,000

It would affect a lot of Chinese spouses because many of them have large savings in China. One way to solve this problem is for the spouse in China to transfer monies to the UK spouse member so that it can form part of his cash savings.

Most of our clients apply for their wife in China to come to the UK on a spouse visa. We find it is easier if they are employed rather than being self-employed: you only need 6 months employment but if you are self-employed, you need to produce the tax return for the last financial year (6 April to 5 April) which requires at least 1 year’s self-employment. Also, cash savings cannot be mixed with self-employment earnings.

For some of our clients where both spouse members are in the UK, we were able to use the British husband’s income plus the applicant wife’s savings in her home country to satisfy the £18,600 criteria.