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Rishi Sunak seeks to calm minimum income visa fears

by source

13 December 2023

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak has said the government is looking at “transitional arrangements” for British citizens with foreign spouses who earn less than £38,700.

It comes amid warnings new visa rules will tear families apart.

From next spring, British citizens and those settled in the UK must be earning at least £38,700 to bring in foreign family members.

The government initially said the new rule would also cover people already in the UK who were reapplying for visas.

But Mr Sunak confirmed that the policy was being rethought, at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms said: “The marriage plans of thousands of couples were dashed last week by the sudden announcement of a big increase in the salary requirement for a spouse visa.

“Can the prime minister give any reassurance to those with very well advanced marriage plans that appear now to have been scuppered and to families already in the UK who need to extend their stay who won’t comply with the new rules?”

Mr Sunak said it was right that “anyone bringing dependents to the UK must be able to support them financially” and the income threshold had not been increased in “over a decade”.

But he said the Home Office was looking at “transitional arrangements” to “ensure that they are fair” and an announcement would be made “shortly”.

On LBC radio, Home Secretary James Cleverly said he understood people’s concerns about the new, higher salary threshold and he hoped to “clarify” the rules shortly.

Asked if people already living in the UK would be OK, he said: “Yes. This is a forward looking proposal rather than backward.”

Newly-appointed legal immigration minister Tom Pursglove later came under pressure to confirm that people already living in the UK would not be forced to leave the country if they earned less than £38,000.

Tory MP Tim Loughton said many people – including one of his constituents – were worried “they may have to up sticks and move quite quickly”.

Mr Pursglove said anyone applying to renew their visa before the new rules came in would not have to worry.

Asked if they would be protected in future years, he told the Home Affairs Committee: “We are not intending to apply these measures retrospectively.”

He declined to offer any more clarity but said more details would be announced “as soon as we are able”.

The increase in the minimum income threshold to more than double the previous limit of £18,600 has prompted criticism from opposition MPs and some Conservatives.

Last week, former Tory minister Lord Barwell said: “It is both morally wrong and unconservative to say that only the wealthiest can fall in love, marry someone and then bring them to the UK.”

The government is keen to stress that the family immigration rules contain an exemption for “exceptional circumstances”, where there would be “unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner, a relevant child or another family member if their application were to be refused”.

The minimum income threshold is for skilled workers but does not apply to health and care workers.

When applying for the initial visa from outside the UK, only the sponsor’s income can be counted towards the minimum income threshold. For extensions and permanent residence, partners must have a combined income of £38,700.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-67705178.amp

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