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What are the financial requirements for UK spouse and partner visas?
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What are the financial requirements for UK spouse and partner visas?

One of the trickiest parts of applying for a UK visa as a spouse or partner are the financial requirements. Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules contains minimum financial requirements to be met in entry clearance or leave to remain applications. This is the topic of this post. If you are brave enough to delve into it, you will find a summary of the rules, evidential requirements and some examples that may assist with your application.

There are two financial requirements to be met: a minimum income which has to be demonstrated with specified documents, and adequate accommodation for the family.

People outside the UK will apply for “leave to enter” as the spouse or partner of a British or settled person, whereas people already in the UK will be applying for “leave to remain”. The rules for leave to enter and remain are similar, and we will mainly deal with leave to enter, occasionally highlighting the different requirements applicable to leave to remain applications.

The detailed rules and policies

When dealing with financial requirements, start by looking at rules E-ECP.3.1 to E-ECP.3.4 for leave to enter, and E-LTRP.3.1 to E-LTRP.3.4 for leave to remain, contained in Appendix FM. You find these by going to Appendix FM on the Home Office website and clicking on the “Family life with a partner” drop-down menu.

Having looked at these rules and selected the way in which they meet the financial requirement can be met, an applicant then has to look at Appendix FM-SE. This is a separate section of the Immigration Rules which lists the specific format in which evidence must be sent. It is then crucial to check the Home Office policy on the matter, which is updated from time to time.

We will refer to all these sources below as we summarise the requirements. We start with the accommodation, which is easier to prove.

The two requirements: accommodation

There are two financial requirements to be met: a minimum income which has to be demonstrated with specified documents, and “adequate” accommodation for the family.

“Family” includes other family members who are not applying for leave to enter or remain but who live in the same household.

We start with the accommodation, which is easier to prove.

Rule E-ECP.3.4 in Appendix FM says:

The applicant must provide evidence that there will be adequate accommodation, without recourse to public funds, for the family…

“Accommodation” means a flat, house or a room in a shared property. It must be owned or occupied exclusively by the family, without recourse to public funds.

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“Family” includes other family members who are not applying for leave to enter or remain but who live in the same household.

Accommodation is “adequate” if it is not overcrowded or breaking public health regulations.

There are housing regulations saying what makes a room or house overcrowded. How these are applied in the immigration context is explained in Home Office guidance.

Essentially, you need to count the number of people sleeping in each room. Rooms include living rooms. There shouldn’t be more than a certain number of people per room of the house, and children of the opposite sex aged 10 or over should not have to share a room.

A couple can obviously share the same room, and children under the age of 1 are disregarded. Children between 1 and 9 years old count as one half of a person and anyone aged 10 or more counts as one person.

When you prepare the documents to submit with your application, you must include a description of the property, which clarifies the number of rooms available.

Example: Mary's family

Mary is a British citizen and lives in the UK with her two British children, Yasmine aged 11 and David aged 9. They live at the house owned by Mary’s parents, who also reside at the same address.

Mary’s husband James applies for entry clearance from Kenya. As evidence of adequate accommodation, the couple submit mortgage statements in the name of Mary’s parents, an extract from the land registry confirming ownership of the property and a description of the house provided by an estate agent.

Copies of Mary’s parents’ passports are provided together with a letter written by them, confirming that Mary, James and the children are welcome to live at the property rent-free.

The house has three bedrooms and a living room. It is therefore “adequate accommodation”. Mary’s parents sleep in one room, Mary and James can sleep in the second bedroom and there are in theory two other rooms for the children, i.e. bedroom no. 3 and the living room.

The two requirements: funds

The so-called minimum income rule is in section E-ECP.3.1 of Appendix FM.

The sponsor (i.e. the British citizen or settled person) must show that they can support their partner by earning a pre-tax annual salary of £18,600.

The sponsor’s income must be higher if any dependent children of the applicant or of the applicant’s partner are also applying for leave to enter or remain, or are already in the UK with leave as a dependant.

“Child” means any person under the age of 18 years, or who was under the age of 18 when they first applied for a visa under Appendix FM, and who is not British, settled or an EEA national.

For the first child, the additional gross income must be £3,800. It is £2,400 for any additional child. Put another way, the Home Office guidance says that the minimum income requirement is:

Partner with no children – £18,600

1 child in addition to the partner – £22,400

2 children in addition to the partner – £24,800

3 children in addition to the partner – £27,200

The financial requirement can be met by gross annual salary alone or (if below the threshold) in combination with savings. It is also possible to rely on savings alone.

Savings must amount to £16,000 plus the shortfall between the salary earned and the amount required, multiplied by 2.5.

The salary of the applicant does not count for an entry clearance application. Only the sponsor’s salary can be counted. In extension of leave applications, the income of the applicant will also be taken into account, as long as it is not the result of illegal working. We will look at sources of income in more detail in the “What if I earn less than £18,600 a year?” section.

Example: Ahmed's income

Ahmed is a British citizen wants to sponsor his wife and two children who live in the USA. Ahmed earns £15,000 per annum.

This level of income is insufficient, as Ahmed needs to earn £24,800 (£18,600 + £3,800 for the first child + £2,400 for the second child).

The shortfall between the salary that Ahmed needs to earn (£24,800) and his actual salary (£15,000) is £9,800.

Luckily Ahmed has a substantial amount of savings. To sponsor his family he needs to add to his income £40,500 in savings.

This is because he needs £16,000 + (£9,800 x 2.5) = £40,500.

In fact, Ahmed has £80,000 in UK savings. In this case, Ahmed can simply rely on savings rather than showing evidence of savings and income.

If Ahmed relies only on savings, he would need to show that he has £78,000, which is £16,000 + (18,600 X 2.5 for his wife) + (3,800 X 2.5 for the first child) + (2,400 X 2.5 for the second child). As Ahmed has more than this amount, this requirement is met.

If the sponsor is on benefits, they meet the income requirement if they receive one or more of the following:

  • disability living allowance
  • severe disablement allowance
  • industrial injury disablement benefit
  • attendance allowance
  • carer’s allowance
  • personal independence payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme or
  • Police Injury Pension

Other benefits are not accepted as source of income, and cannot be relied upon.

Specified evidence

A common reason for refusal in Appendix FM applications is the fact that the applicant fails to submit the “specified evidence” required.

Documents

Documents showing how someone meets the financial requirements must be presented in a specific format, explained in Appendix FM-SE.

For example, bank statements must be originals, or stamped by the bank on each page or accompanied by a cover letter from the financial institution. The bank account must belong to the sponsor or jointly to the sponsor and the applicant.

Payslips must be originals or accompanied by a letter of the employer, which must contain certain information about the employment, such as level of income, type of employment and length of employment.

Savings must be in cash (this means that they can be easily withdrawn, not that you need to keep your money under the mattress).

Foreign currencies must be converted using the oanda.com website.

It is important to ensure that the format of any document is correct, or the application will be refused.

Example: Ahmed's savings

Returning to the previous example of Ahmed, who wants to rely on savings to meet the minimum income requirement. He needs £78,000 to meet the requirement through savings alone and has £60,000 in a UK account and $20,000 in a US bank account.

Ahmed needs to see how much $20,000 is worth in pounds according to the Oanda website. On the day he does the conversion, it is just over £15,000, meaning that he does not have enough to meet the minimum income requirement through savings alone.

In Ahmed’s case, though, he can combine £40,600 of savings with his £15,000 annual salary to meet the requirement.

Time period

It is also fundamental that the evidence covers the specified time period.

Generally speaking, the most recent document must not be older than 28 days before the day the application is submitted.

Employment must cover six consecutive months before the application and evidence of self-employment must normally cover the latest financial year. Savings above the required limit must have been in the sponsor’s (or applicant’s) bank account for six consecutive months.

It is difficult to describe all the requirements applicable to circumstance, and it is therefore very important to look at Appendix FM-SE to ensure all the documents are provided as requested.

What if I earn less than £18,600 a year?

If your sponsor earns, say, £50,000 a year in a job they have been working in for years you probably don’t need to worry about this section. This is a much more detailed discussion of the minimum income requirement for people whose sponsors don’t earn £18,600, or have just started a new job, or might be struggling to meet the threshold for some other reason.

There are various ways in which the required income and/or savings can be demonstrated. In some cases sources of income can be mixed and matched, in others they cannot.

The Home Office policy guidance deals with the various categories, and it is not easy reading, even for immigration lawyers who are used to the Rules’ convoluted style.

The categories

Category A: income from salaried or non-salaried employment of the partner (and/or the applicant if they are in the UK with permission to work).

Category B: income from the same sources of category A, in case the sponsor (and/or applicant if in the UK with permission to work) has not been working for the same employer for at least 6 months.

Category C: non-employment income, for example income from property rental or dividends from shares.

Category D: cash savings of the applicant’s partner and/or the applicant, held by the partner and/or the applicant for at least 6 months.

Category E: State (UK or foreign), occupational or private pension of the applicant’s partner and/or the applicant.

Category F or G: income from self-employment, and income as a director or employee of a specified limited company in the UK, of the partner (and/or the applicant if they are in the UK with permission to work). The category depends on which financial year/years are relied upon.

Category A – Sponsor in the UK

It is possible to count income in this category when the sponsor (and/or the applicant if they are in the UK with permission to work) has been working for six months or more for the same employer. The sponsor can be in salaried or non-salaried employment.

Non-salaried employment means employment paid at an hourly or other rate (and the number and/or pattern of hours required to be worked may vary) or paid an amount which varies according to the work undertaken.

When the sponsor is in salaried employment, their salary for the six-month period must be equal or above the required minimum income.

When the sponsor is in non-salaried employment, they will have to calculate the annual equivalent of their average gross monthly income from non-salaried employment in the six months prior to the date of application. This means that they have to add up their actual gross income received in the last six months, divide by six to obtain a monthly average, and multiply by 12, to get the annual average.

If the total income is below the required threshold, it is possible to combine it with Category C, D and E (non-employment income, cash savings and pension), which we will look at below, to meet the requirement.

If you are utterly confused after reading the above, here’s an example that may help clarify things.

Example: Jack, in salaried employment in the UK for more than six months

Jack has been working as an administrator for two years. He wants to bring his partner Sam to the UK.

Jack has earned £15,000 for the past two years, but three months ago he was promoted and started earning £20,000. As Jack has not earned at least £18,600 for six months, he cannot meet the minimum income requirement and has to wait for three more months before sponsoring Sam.

However, Jack also owns a small flat, which has been rented out for at least 12 months, producing a gross rental income of £8,000. Therefore Jack’s annual income is £23,000 (£15,000 + £8,000) . 

In this case, Jack can combine Category A (salaried employment) and Category C (non-employment income) to satisfy the minimum income requirement.

Category A – Sponsor returning to the UK with the applicant

Sponsors who have not been living in the UK are in a different position. They also need to having been working for the same employer for the past six months, although in this case it will be an employer overseas. But they also need to also have a job offer of salaried or non-salaried employment in the UK, starting within three months of their return, with an income equal or above the threshold.

Example: Han, in salaried employment outside the UK for less than six months

Han has been working in India for four months, earning £40,000. He wishes to come to the UK with his partner Leia, and has a job offer starting in four weeks, with an income of £50,000. The requirement is not met under Category A because Han has not been working for six consecutive months.

Han may be able to satisfy the financial requirement under another category, for example if he has savings or non-employment income.

Category B – Sponsor in the UK

This category applies to sponsors (and applicants if legally working in the UK) who have not been in the same salaried or non-salaried employment for at least six months before the application, or to those on variable income.

This category requires two different calculations:

  1. Gross annual salary/income at the date of the application and
  2. Actual salary/income received in the 12 months prior to the application.

Both calculations must show income above the required threshold.

Therefore, firstly the sponsor must calculate their gross annual salary.

If they are in salaried employment, they must count their gross annual salary at the date of the application.

If they are in non-salaried employment, they must add up their total income in the time they have been doing that job prior to the date of application, divided by the number of months and multiplied by 12 (it’s different if payment is weekly or daily).

If the total income is below the required threshold, it is again possible to combine it with income or savings in Categories C, D and E which we will see below.

If the sponsor and the applicant wish to combine their income, they have to rely on Category B only, so it is not possible for one to rely on Category A and the other on Category B.

Secondly, the applicant and/or sponsor have to calculate their actual income (from salaried or non-salaried employment) in the 12 months preceding the application. Income from Category C and E can be added to hit the threshold, but not income from Category D (cash savings).

Example: Sara, in salaried employment for less than six months

Sara is sponsoring her partner for a visa. She started her job two months ago, so must count her income in Category B rather than Category A. She makes £19,000 per annum (which means £1,583 per month). Therefore she meets the first part of the requirement.

Sara also had another job in the 12 months preceding the application, which she worked at for four months before getting her current job. In her old job she earned £3,000 per month. Therefore her total income in the past 12 months is £3,166 (£1,583 a month x 2 months) from her current job + £12,000 (£3000 x 4 months in her previous job) = £15,166. Therefore Sara does not meet the second part of the requirement.

Sara has £40,000 savings. Unfortunately, this does not help because Category C cannot be combined with Category B.

Example: Simon, in non-salaried employment for less than six months

Simon wishes to bring his wife Amin to the UK. He has been in non-salaried employment in the UK for five months. He is in a well-paid job and his income per month has been £6,000, £9,000, £4,000, £8,000 and £7,000.

Simon meets part 1 of the Category B requirement because (£6,000 +£9,000 + £4,000 + £8,000 + £7,000) divided by 5 months = £6,800. This has to be multiplied by 12 = £81,600.

Simon has not had any other job in the past 12 months, but his actual gross income during the past 12 months is above the required level of income of £18,600 because (£6,000 +£9,000 + £4,000 + £8,000 + £7,000) = £34,000. Therefore the second part of the requirement is also met.

Category B – Sponsor returning to the UK with the applicant

In this case the sponsor does not need to be employed but needs to have a job offer starting within three months of their return, with a gross annual starting salary (or in non-salaried employment a gross annual income from that employment) equal to or above the required threshold. The income can be “topped up” using Category C, D or E.

The second part of the requirement is that the sponsor must have received a gross amount of salaried or non-salaried employment income overseas equal or above the required threshold, in the 12 months preceding the application. This income can be topped up using Category C or E but not D (cash savings).

Special cases

There are different rules about income that isn’t a salary or wage. If you receive a bonus, commission, maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay or sick pay and want to count them towards Category A or B income, check the Home Office guidance.

Category C – non-employment income

These sources of funds can be counted to demonstrate the minimum income requirement is met:

  • Property rental
  • Dividends or other income from investments, stocks and shares, bonds or trust funds
  • Interest from savings
  • Maintenance payments from a former partner of the applicant in relation to the applicant or any children of the applicant and their former partner. Also, maintenance payments from a former partner of the applicant’s partner in relation to that partner
  • UK Maternity Allowance, Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • Payments under the War Pensions Scheme, the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and the Armed Forces Attributable Benefits Scheme
  • A maintenance grant or stipend (not a loan) associated with undergraduate study or postgraduate study or research
  • Ongoing insurance payments
  • Ongoing payments from a structured legal settlement
  • Ongoing royalty payments

Income received from the sources above within 12 months from the date of the application can be counted.

In relation to dividends, those can be counted under Category D only if the company from which dividends are drawn is not a family business of the type described under category F or G, which we will look at later.

As a general rule, Category C can be combined with Category A, B, D and E.

Category D – Cash savings

Only savings above £16,000 can be considered.

This category can be combined with Category A, Category B (part 1, calculating current income), Category C and E, but not with Category B (part 2 – past income) or F and G.

“Cash savings” means that the money must be held in a current, deposit or investment account, provided by a financial institution regulated by the appropriate regulatory body in the UK or overseas. The money must be readily accessible, so for example a pension fund would not count, as money cannot be withdrawn immediately.

It is also important to remember that the savings must have been held for at least six months, must be in the name of the sponsor and/or the applicant and may come from any legal source. Whoever owns the money will have to sign a declaration stating the source.

Funds previously held in investments, stocks, shares, bonds or trust funds can count if they are liquidated before the application, and it is not necessary to liquidate those six months before the application. The same is true in case where the money are the proceeds of sale of a property (dwelling or land). This has to be clearly demonstrated with clear documentary evidence.

Mohamed's savings

Mohamed owns various properties in the UK. Two months before his wife and child’s application for entry clearance, he sells one flat and transfers the net proceeds of the sale into his savings account. The amount is £90,000.

Mohamed’s wife Maria and their son Tarek (who is not British) submit an application for entry clearance showing Mohamed’s bank statements for the past two months, a letter from the conveyancing solicitors confirming the sale, evidence from the Land Registry confirming that Mohamed was the owner of the flat for three years, and confirmation that the mortgage on the sold property has been closed and all taxes and fees for the sale have been paid. This confirm that the £90,000 is net profit.

Mohamed needs to show savings of [£16,000 + (£18,600 for his wife + £3,800 for his son) x 2.5] = £72,000. Therefore the requirement is met.

If Mohamed had sold the flat a year ago, he would not have had to provide the evidence about the property, but would have had to show six months’ of bank statements and sign a declaration saying how he came by the money.

Category E – Pension

The gross annual income from any state pension (UK or foreign), occupational pension or private pension received by the applicant’s partner or the applicant can be counted towards the financial requirement if the pension has become a source of income at least 28 days prior to the application.

This category can be combined with Category A, B, C and D.

Category F and G – self-employment and directorships

Where the sponsor (and/or the applicant if they are in the UK with permission to work) is self-employed, they can use income from

  • the last full financial year (Category F) or
  • the average from the last two financial years (Category G)

Self-employed people have to use documents covering the last financial year, which runs from 6 April to 5 April of the following year in the UK but may vary in other countries.

You would also have to count your income in Category F or G if you are either the director or employee (or both) of a “specified limited company” in the UK. This essentially means a family business. A specified limited company is where:

  1. the person is either a director or employee of the company, or both, or of another company within the same group; and
  2. shares are held (directly or indirectly) by the person, their partner or the following family members of the person or their partner: parent, grandparent, child, stepchild, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or first cousin; and
  3. any remaining shares are held (directly or indirectly) by fewer than five other persons.

Directors of companies must use the company tax year, which means the period covered by the Company Tax Return CT600, and must cover 12 full months.

If a person has different financial years, or the sponsor and the partner’s income cover different-ending financial years, their income from the self-assessment tax return and Company Tax Return financial years cannot be combined.

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The same is true when one tries to combine Category F or G with Category A, C or E. It is permissible to combine income from these categories only when this covers the same period of time, and each source of income has to be available for the whole period of time.

Many detailed rules cover both the requirements and the specified evidence that must be submitted under Category F and G. Therefore it is very important to read the relevant provisions once you decide which category you intend to use, to ensure every requirement is met.

It is very common for Appendix FM applications to be refused on a technicality, for example because documentation in the wrong format has been provided.

Exceptional circumstances

If the applicant and sponsor are unable to satisfy any of the categories above, other reliable sources of income can be taken into account.

This is the consequence of court cases which led to a relaxation of the rules.

Paragraph GEN 3.1 of the Immigration Rules now states that when

It is evident from the information provided by the applicant that there are exceptional circumstances which could render refusal of the application a breach of Article 8 because it could result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner or a relevant child

it is acceptable to produce evidence of other credible and reliable sources of income, financial support or funds available to the couple.

The threshold to satisfy, in order to benefit from this rule, is a high one. Chris discusses exceptional circumstances in this post: Home Office makes changes to Appendix FM Minimum Income Rule following MM case. I discuss exceptional circumstances applications further in a recent Free Movement podcast.

 

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