The UK Spouse Visa minimum income requirement is leaving scores of families at risk of separation amid COVID-19.
The Home Office has stated that a system is in place to help families that are negatively affected by the requirement, but migrant charities have argued that caseworkers do not have the experience that is needed to process claims.
The rules regarding UK Spouse Visas state that non-EEA spouses of British citizens or settled persons can join their partners in the UK providing they collectively earn a minimum of £18,600 per year. This minimum income requirement increases by £3,800 for the first child, and then £2,400 for each one after.
Even prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the rule has attracted criticism from migrant charities and members of the public alike, who argue that a fluctuation in a family’s financial circumstances, for example due to pregnancy or childcare, could lead to disastrous consequences.
The rule can also make immigrating into the UK in the first place hugely difficult, as neither earnings outside the UK nor future job offers are taken into consideration when the Spouse Visa application is being processed by the UKVI.
Factoring the deleterious economic impact of the pandemic into the equation, the picture becomes infinitely more bleak. Many families have suffered severe losses of income amid COVID-19, and as a result, have dropped below the Spouse Visa earnings threshold.
Ahmed, a British citizen, had been steadily employed since graduating from university in 2010. Following a seven-year stint as a bank relationship manager, he took on a new role at his local city council. In September 2019- with a considerable amount of money saved and the birth of his child approaching- he decided to leave this position and take some time off before looking for a new job in the new year.
In order to qualify for a Spouse Visa Extension, he knew that he would need to find another job by September 2020. This would enable him to provide six months of payslips that showed he earned above the minimum salary threshold.
In Ahmed’s words: ‘“I thought: ‘one year to find a job that’s over twenty grand, it’s going to be easy.’”
Under normal circumstances, it would have been. But after months of applying for jobs, Ahmed found that his employment opportunities had essentially disappeared: “Noone’s willing to hire me with all the experience and qualifications I’ve got.”
Although Ahmed still has more than enough savings in the bank to provide for his family, his wife still faces the distressing prospect of losing her visa.
“My son is British, I’m British, this is just solely for my wife’s visa renewal. How can they kick her out of the country when she’s got a British son? You know, I don’t want to be in a position where she’s living in this country illegally.”
Ahmed is confident that if the case goes to a hearing, the judge will opt in favour of granting a Spouse Visa Extension, but there will be some downsides. For example, Ahmed’s wife will be placed on a 10-year path to citizenship (long residence) rather than the five-year path that is standard for Spouse Visa holders. As a result, they will incur more costs through fees and surcharges, and will have to endure five additional years of travel restrictions.
How we can help
If you’re concerned regarding the impact of COVID-19 on your Spouse Visa Application or Spouse Visa Extension, contact our client care team today on 0333 305 9375.
Prior to the commencement of your application, we will talk through the Spouse Visa Requirements one by one, ensuring you are fully comfortable with the way we plan to proceed.
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