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Could Labour Stop the Minimum Income Threshold Increase for Family Visas?

With only two days left to go until the general election, there are still key questions as to whether Labour may take action over the proposed Family visa minimum income increases.

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The Status of the Family Visa Income Threshold

There has been significant change and turmoil over the past few months for Family visas.

At the end of 2023, the Conservative government announced a sudden increase in the minimum income threshold for Family visas from from £18,600 to £38,700, which when later amended to a gradual incremental increase starting from April 2024 and ending in 2025. It has been speculated that this amendment was made due to significant backlash over the initial announcement of increases.

Meanwhile, a general election has been called in the UK, which has raised several questions over the future of this policy and how a new government would handle it in the wake of overwhelmingly negative response from the public and experts alike.

We take a look at the possible future of this policy and the current status of it in the light of the general election ahead of the vote on Thursday.

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What is Labour’s Stance on the Minimum Income Threshold Increases?

As of the time of writing (2 July 2024) Labour have not explicitly stated that they intend to stop or reverse the increases to the Family visa minimum income threshold.

However, some experts have speculated that a Labour government may indeed halt the changes if they were elected into government.

Madeleine Sumption, the Director of the Migration Observatory, told The Standard:

“At the time it was introduced, Labour said that they had concerns about it. So, there is an important question there about whether they would lower the threshold or not.

The Conservative government said that they planned to increase it further but it’s not baked into the rules.

Given that Labour has said that they had concerns about the threshold initially, I would assume that they would not necessarily go ahead with the Conservative policy of further increases.”

Despite this, there are still significant questions over what action, if any, Labour might take over these policies. The party has not voiced explicit opposition to many of the Conservatives’ latest visa changes – rather, Labour’s manifesto is also mostly geared towards bringing net migration down to lower levels.

This means that the increases to the Family visa income thresholds may well still go ahead with a Labour government in power. Other policies such as the ban on students and care workers bringing dependents to the UK and the increase to the Skilled Worker visa income threshold may also remain.

Other Parties’ Stances on Threshold Increases

The parties predicted to have the third, fourth and fifth largest share of the vote on Thursday have been vocal about their stances on immigration.

The Reform Party have not explicitly commented on the latest visa changes in their manifesto, but have stated that they will “freeze non-essential immigration” and introduce stricter laws on illegal migrants, restrict access to benefits for foreign nationals, and incentivise businesses to hire UK citizens over foreign workers.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed scrapping the minimum income threshold increases to the Family visa. They have also proposed replacing the minimum salary threshold system for work visas with a merit-based system, reversing the ban on care workers bringing dependents to the UK, and overhauling the UK Immigration Rules to allow for easier passage of migrants to the UK.

The Green Party have proposed removing all minimum income requirements from visa applications, including Family visas. They have also proposed removing English language requirements from visa applications, abolishing immigration detention, and granting access to public funds and the ability to vote to all current and future visa holders in the UK.

Opposition to the Income Threshold Increases

The pushback to the Family visa income threshold increases have been wide-reaching and varied.

In June, a petition calling for a halt to the Family visa minimum threshold increases reached 101,321 signatures.

The petition states: “Currently the financial requirements to bring your spouse to the UK is £18,600 per year and now the Government wants to more than double it. Most people in the UK don’t make that per year. We believe this policy punishes those who fall in love with someone with a different nationality.”

Parliament vows to debate and discuss any petition on the official government petition site that reaches at least 100,000 signatures.

The petition ended early, however, due to the calling of the general election. It is therefore set to be discussed in parliament after the election finishes and a new government is elected.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government are being subjected to a legal challenge in the High Court over the recent changes.

Reunite Families UK (RFUK), a not-for-profit organisation, have have questioned the legality of the policy and are pushing for a reversal of the future changes.

Tessa Gregory, a partner from Leigh Day, who is representing RFUK, stated that: “Our client…is appalled that a decision of such import appears to have been taken by the Home Secretary in such a cavalier manner: without proper analysis; and in breach of critical public law duties such as assessing the impact of the decision on protected groups. RFUK will be asking the Court to quash the decision on the basis that the Home Secretary has acted unlawfully.”

Finally, the policy has been variously described as “incredibly stupid”, “pathetic” and “cruel and foolish” by MPs in the House of Commons. They have also voiced concerns over the policy discriminating against women (who may earn less on average), residents of lower income areas, young people and the self-employed.

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