COVID-19: Concessions Extended for Family Migration Minimum Income Requirements
COVID-19 has had an untold number of unforeseen impacts on the immigration system and migrants in the UK. Research shows that migrants in lower-paid roles can be much more susceptible to the spread of the virus (for example if they are sharing a house with others), however, they play a key role in responding to the pandemic in vital sectors such as health and care. In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic also meant that thousands of migrant families were geographically split apart for many months due to ongoing travel restrictions.
Another way in which migrant families living in the UK are being affected is through reduced income due to COVID-19. Those who are applying for a family visa must meet a minimum income requirement, but what happens if prospective applicants have experienced a sudden and unexpected drop in income due to COVID-19? In this article, we will outline the latest information from the Home Office on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) concession for UK family visa applicants.
What Does the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Minimum Income Concession Offer?
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) concession outlined in the appendix FM financial requirements guidance explains the Home Office’s policy on migrants who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Firstly, it confirms that income received from either the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme can be used when calculating income from employment or self-employment income.
The latest guidance also confirms that where a family visa applicant whose income has been temporarily affected by COVID-19 between 1st March 2020 and 1st January 2021, the following concessions will be given by Home Office case officers:
- If you have experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 1st January 2021, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least six months immediately before the date the income was lost.
- If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed, we will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.
- If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1st March 2020 and 1st January 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.
These concessions were first granted by the Home Office for family migrants whose income had fallen during the period up to 31st August 2020, however on 16th October 2020, this was extended to 1st January 2021.
What is the Normal Minimum Income Requirement for Family Visas?
In normal circumstances, those applying for a partner/spouse visa have to meet the financial requirements defined by the Home Office. Partner visa applicants need to show an income of at least £18,600 per year, and this increases to £22,400 for those with one child, £24,800 for applicants with two children, and £27,200 if they have three children. It is important to remember that if your income (or that of your UK based partner) has been reduced due to COVID-19, you may not need to rely on a concession if you have other forms of income and/or savings in the bank.
The minimum income requirement under the family migration route can be met through salaried employment, self-employment, non-salaried income, and/or cash savings over £16,000. When working out how much you or your partner earn, the Home Office case officer will break down the income as follows:
Category A income
This includes salaried income where the applicant has been with their current employer for six months or more.
Category B income
Category B includes income where the applicant has been with their current employer for less than six months or they have a variable income.
Category C income
Category C covers any income not received through employment or self-employment, including:
- 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
- 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 associated with undergraduate study or postgraduate study or research
- ongoing insurance payments
- ongoing payments from a structured legal settlement
- ongoing royalty payments
In addition, the Home Office will consider your cash savings (Category D) and your pension (Category E). Cash savings of over £16,000 can be used to reduce your annual income requirement. This is calculated by dividing the amount over £16,000 by 2.5 (as partner/spouse visas are typically granted for 2.5 years).
While the Home Office has said that it will provide concessions to family visa applicants who have recently seen a reduction in their income, or have even lost they jobs, it will be important to provide as much evidence with your application that your income met the requirements in the six months before your income was reduced. Any correspondence which shows that the reduction in income is temporary may also be useful. If you are planning to make an application for a spouse/partner visa soon, it is well worth considering engaging the help of immigration Solicitor who can help you prepare your application and ensure you have included all of the evidence needed. They can also provide a covering letter to mitigate any possible concerns the Home Office may have. When it comes to making an immigration application, it always pays to be thorough and cover off all eventualities.
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