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What the 2024 Family Visa Rule Changes Mean For You

2024 has brought a swathe of changes to UK visas, particularly in the Family and Dependent visa categories. Here, we’ll take you over the changes already put into place, and the possible changes to come in the coming year.

For help and expert advice on your Family visa or any other UK immigration issue, contact us on 0333 305 9375 or reach out to us online today.

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What Are the 2024 Family and Dependent Visa Changes?

Like many other visa categories, Family and Dependent visas have seen a number of changes in 2024 under the Conservative government.

At a glance, the four major changes for these visas are listed below:

  • The minimum income threshold for a Spouse or Partner visa has risen from £18,600 to £29,000, with further rises to come.
  • Care workers can no longer bring dependents with them to the UK.
  • Students can no longer bring dependents with them to the UK, except for postgraduate students on courses lasting 9 months or longer, or government-sponsored students on courses lasting 6 months or longer.
  • There will be no longer any need to show additional funds for Spouse or Partner visa holders if bringing dependent children with them to the UK.

These changes are discussed in further detail in the section below.

If you have any questions about UK immigration, our team is happy to assist.

What Do These Changes Mean for Me?

If You Already Have a Spouse, Partner, Work or Study Visa

If you’re already in the UK with one of the visas listed above, you will likely not be subject to the new rules as long as you applied for your visa before the rules came into effect.

This is because the new rule changes only apply to new, first-time applicants.

The specific dates for the new rule changes are as follows:

  • The new minimum income threshold for the Spouse or Partner visas came into effect on 11 April 2024.
  • The ban on care workers bringing dependents with them came into effect on 11 March 2024.
  • The ban on most students bringing dependents with them came into effect on 1 January 2024.
  • The removal of the additional funds requirement for dependent children on Spouse or Partner visas came into effect on 11 April 2024.

If you applied for your visa before the corresponding date listed above, you will likely not be subject to the new rules.

For care workers and senior care workers, you must have been employed as a care worker or senior care worker in the UK and on a Health and Care Worker visa before 11 March 2024 to be exempt from the new rules.

Note that applicants will also not be subject to the new rules if they plan to extend their current visa, or if they eventually apply to settle in the UK using their current visa (note that additional stipulations may apply, such as having to apply with the same partner as you applied with in your initial visa application).

If You’re a New Spouse or Partner Visa Applicant

If you have applied for, or are planning to apply for, a Spouse or Partner visa on or after 11 April 2024, you will have to ensure that you meet the new minimum financial requirement of £29,000.

You can meet this requirement in various ways, such as through pension income, cash savings, employment or self-employment income, and other non-employment sources of income.

Note that only the sponsoring partner can contribute salaried or non-salaried employment income to meet the financial requirement. Salaried or non-salaried employment income from the foreign visa applicant cannot be used to meet the financial requirement for a first-time application.

However, salaried and non-salaried income from both parties can be combined for visa extension applications, or applications for permanent settlement.

It may be possible for both parties to combine other types of finances to meet the requirement when applying for a Spouse or Partner visa for the first time. However, note that certain categories cannot be combined.

If you’re a new Spouse or Partner visa applicant, you will also no longer have to provide extra funds if you wish to bring dependent children with you to the UK.

If You’re a New Care Worker Applicant

If you are a care worker or senior care worker and have applied for, or are planning to apply for, a Health and Care Worker visa after 11 March 2024, you will no longer be able to bring a dependent partner or children with you when you come to the UK.

Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to this rule at the time of writing (June 2024). The only possibility for your partner or children to join you in the UK is if they also apply for their own individual visas that are independent from yours.

If You’re a New Student Visa Applicant

If you have applied for, or are planning to apply for, a Student visa after 1 January 2024, you will no longer be able to bring a dependent partner or children with you when you come to the UK, unless you are one of the following:

  • A government-sponsored student starting a course that lasts longer than 6 months
  • A full-time student on a postgraduate level course that lasts 9 months or longer. The course must be either:
    • A PhD or other doctorate (RQF level 8)
    • A research-based higher degree

For all other students on a student visa, the only way to “bring” your dependents to the UK is for them to apply for a visa of their own, such as a Visitor visa.

Reach out to us for immediate help and assistance with your UK visa application today.

What Further Changes Are Set to Be Made for Family and Dependent Visas?

The most significant change to come in the coming months is the raising of the minimum financial requirement for Spouse and Partner visas.

The government have stated that the financial requirement for these visas will rise to “around £34,500” sometime in later 2024.

This is then set to rise to “around £38,700” by early 2025.

You should be aware that if you’re planning to apply for a visa and may not be in a position to meet the new higher financial requirements, it may be beneficial for you to apply for a visa as soon as possible before the new changes come into effect.

Will the 2024 General Election Bring Any Further Changes?

At the time of writing (June 2024), we only have a vague idea of what changes a new government might bring to the Family and Dependent visa categories.

For instance, the Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, has stated that Labour has “no plans” to reverse the ban on care workers being able to bring dependents with them to the UK.

There is also no indication that a new Labour government will reverse any of the other recent changes made by the Conservative government, including the rise in financial requirements to the Spouse and Partner visas.

However, Rishi Sunak has recently unveiled plans to introduce a new policy in the form of a yearly cap for certain visa categories, including Family visas.

In a statement, Sunak stated: “The plan is working but migration levels are still too high, so we are going further…The Conservatives are the only party that is willing to take the bold action needed to cut immigration figures.”

There is no indication as of yet of what the figures for a yearly cap would look like if the Conservatives win a majority vote in the general election.

Meanwhile, the leader of Reform UK, Nigel Farage, has stated that the UK should instead aim for “zero” net migration, implying even more stringent crackdowns on migrant numbers if his party were to win a majority.

It is likely that we will learn more about individual parties’ policies regarding UK migration as we get closer to the general election.

Stay tuned with IAS’s regular immigration updates to keep up to date with the latest in UK and international immigration news. Or, if you need immediate help and assistance with your immigration case today, reach out to one of our friendly advisers on 0333 305 9375 or online.

Are There Any Alternatives to UK Family Visas?

With the sharp increase in the minimum financial threshold for UK Family visas, many people have asked if there are viable alternatives currently available.

If spouses or partners are unable to enter the UK on a normal Family visa, a viable alternative may be an Irish visa.

Ireland allows UK nationals to bring non-EEA spouses or partners with them to settle in Ireland. To be eligible, the UK national must be living in, or intending to live in, Ireland with their spouse or partner and be able to support them financially.

The minimum income level required for spouses with no children is lower than the UK’s minimum, sitting at €20,000 per annum. However, this minimum may be higher if more family members are added to the application.

Alternatively, a foreign spouse or partner may look into applying for an alternative visa to allow them to settle in the UK long term. Work visas such as the Skilled Worker visa, Health and Care Worker visa and the Global Talent visa allow its holders to apply for permanent settlement after a few years.

Additionally, EU citizens may still be able to apply to settle in the UK via the EU Settlement Scheme, if they have a valid reason for applying late.

If neither UK or Irish routes are an option, there are also numerous other countries around the world that offer equivalent visas that may be viable for couples looking to settle down together. These include the US, Australia, France, Germany and Canada.

Navigating these international visas and finding the best one to suit your needs can be tricky. However, IAS’s immigration lawyers work globally across multiple countries, helping individuals and couples to find the ideal solution for their case. For a one-on-one consultation with an immigration expert today, call us on 0333 305 9375 or reach out to us online.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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