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2024 UK immigration changes for family visas

12 January 2024

We have more clarity on James Cleverly’s announcements on measures to cut net migration in the form of ministerial answers and Home Office updates that have followed.

If you have upcoming UK immigration applications that may be affected by the developments outlined below, we strongly advise applying sooner rather than later, with legal advice, just in case anything goes wrong the first time. To speak to one of our friendly UK immigration experts contact us on 0207 033 9527 or at enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

Minimum income requirement will keep rising for family visas

The minimum income requirement for a British or settled person to bring their partner to the UK on a family visa will be raised from £18,600 to £29,000 in spring 2024. The Government has now confirmed that this requirement for British or settled partners to demonstrate they can support someone applying for a family visa to live with them in the UK will continue to increase incrementally, catching up with the minimum income threshold for skilled worker visas in early 2025. This spring that figure will be £38,700 but by early 2025 the minimum income threshold could be even higher.

An election is due this year, so whether a new government would want to make the income threshold to prove a settled partner can support their loved one that prohibitively high will remain to be seen.

The Government insists that applicants will still be able to use savings to meet the minimum income requirement as they can now. The cash savings of an applicant, an applicant’s sponsor, or combined savings from both, may be used towards the minimum income requirement, but the sum is high – currently a couple would need £62,500 in cash savings to be granted a two-and-a-half-year visa for a partner with no children. (NB: this is based on the current threshold of £18,600 so the new cash savings requirement could be higher, although the Government says that no additional income will be required for children under the new rules.) The Government also says that exceptional circumstances will be considered where income requirements cannot be met. Family members can also make human rights applications and the Government already anticipates that this policy itself will face human rights challenges.

Those already holding a family visa, granted a fiancé visa before the threshold hike or applying before the impending income threshold increase this spring, will continue to have visa applications assessed against the current £18,600 requirement, which will be a relief to many.

Immigration Health Surcharge raised

The Immigration Health Surcharge, compulsory with most visa applications, is set to increase from £624 per year to £1,035 per year (£470 per year to £776 per year for children, students, youth mobility workers).

The increase in this fee to use the National Health Service was due to be implemented on 16 January if it progressed through Parliament in time. The soonest it will now happen will be early February, as it will come into force 21 days after parliamentary approval and an order being made.

No dependants allowed for carers and most students

Care workers – including senior care workers – will no longer be able to bring family dependants to the UK on sponsored work visas. Those already on this immigration route before the changes take effect may still bring dependants to Britain, including when extending their visa, changing employer (within the same Standard Occupational Classification) and applying for settlement.​ However employees in the UK on any other immigration route, including where that route permits dependants, who switch into the Skilled Worker category as a care worker after the rules change, will not be able to stay with (or bring over) dependants which could break up families that are already here together. This will all be implemented “as soon as possible” in 2024.

Also from January 2024, international students are no longer able to bring dependants with them to the UK unless they are enrolled in a postgraduate course designated as a research programme. Eligible programmes include PhDs and other doctoral qualifications or masters programmes with a research component, including a requirement to produce original work. This restriction applies for all international students starting courses from 1 January 2024.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns, especially if you would like to expedite any visa applications before these changes are introduced. To speak to one of our UK immigration experts contact us on 0207 033 9527 or at enquiries@vanessaganguin.com for a free initial consultation.

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