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What are the New Changes for Dependants of a Skilled Worker?

Every year, thousands of Skilled Worker visas (previously known as the Tier 2 General work visa) are issued each year to migrants from around the world who wish to work in the UK. According to the last set of pre-covid Home Office statistics, there was a significant rise in skilled workers coming to the UK, having risen by 11% to 113,958 in 2019. As the numbers show, a large number of these were for healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses (for which there was a 72% increase in the previous year). And of course, skilled workers coming to the UK also bring their partners and children with them to live in the UK. There have, however, been a number of changes to the immigration system as a result of Brexit, which applied from 1st January 2021, which prospective skilled migrants should be aware of, both in relation to the eligibility criteria for the main visa applicant and also for their dependants. In this article, we will take a look at the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa dependant and whether there are any changes to the immigration rules for 2021 for dependant family members of skilled workers coming to the UK.

What Are The UK Immigration Criteria For Dependants Of Skilled Migrant Workers?

Before looking at the changes which were introduced by the Home Office to immigration rules for dependants of skilled migrant workers, it is useful to recap the eligibility criteria which must be met by a dependant to enter and live in the UK with the main visa holder. The rules state that the following family members are able to acquire a dependant visa:

  • A husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • Children under 18 - including if they were born in the UK during the main applicant's stay
  • Children over 18 if they're currently in the UK as your dependant

For partners/spouses, the Home Office requires proof that the main applicant and their partner are married or in a civil partnership that is legally recognised in the UK. If not married or in a civil partnership, applicants need to provide evidence that they have been in a relationship for at least two years.

When it comes to children, the Home Office will want to verify that any children over 16 are genuinely dependant on the main applicant; this means they are not married, financially independent, or live separately (unless they attend a boarding school full time). In addition, family members cannot switch to becoming skilled worker dependants if they are currently on one of the following types of visa or immigration status:

Have The New Post-Brexit Points-Based Immigration Rules Changed The Requirements For Dependants?

Broadly speaking, there are not many changes to the immigration rules for dependants of skilled migrant workers in the UK. Most importantly, dependants are still eligible and welcome to join the main visa holder to live in the UK. The 'further information' document published by the Home Office in 2020 on the new immigration system made this clear by stating, "Skilled workers and postgraduate students will continue to have the right to bring dependants. Dependants are spouses, partners and children (below the age of 18 at point of entry), and their application is linked to that of the main applicant". This also clarified that dependants of skilled workers will continue to have "full access to the UK labour market" and work in any occupation or at any skill level they wish. Dependant school-age children accompanying the main visa holder are also able to enter state education while in the UK.

At the start of 2021, the previous policy guidance for skilled worker dependants was phased out. This has now been replaced by new guidance entitled, "Dependent family members in work routes".

Change To The Maintenance Funds Rules For 2021

The main change to the rules for dependants relates to maintenance funds. The new guidance clarifies that "Unless the route requires evidence of 'sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate' (Representative of an Overseas Business and UK Ancestry), the following funds must be available to support the application:

  • £285 for a dependent partner
  • £315 for the first dependent child
  • £200 for any other dependent child"

Under the previous guidance for Tier 2 visa dependants, applicants were required to show they had "£630 for their spouse and a further £630 for each child, in addition to £945 required for their own support. In total, the family will require evidence that they hold £2835 in available funds (£630 x 3 = £1890 + £945)". As such, under the new rules for 2021, the maintenance fund requirement has been reduced, however, this is offset somewhat by the larger maintenance amount needed for the main applicant (now £1,270). For large families, this may represent a helpful reduction in the savings requirement. As an example, a skilled worker visa applicant would need to show evidence of £600 in savings for their partner and one child (i.e. £285 for their partner and £315 for their child). This would have been £1,260 prior to 2021.

Summing Up

While the new Home Office immigration rules and policy for skilled workers has changed (i.e. applicants now need to score a minimum number of points and the salary and skills requirements have been lowered), not much has changed for their dependants. As long as sufficient evidence can be provided that each family members is eligible as a dependant and that the maintenance requirement can be met, they should not encounter problems with their application. Dependant family members are required to apply separately but link their applications to that of the main visa applicant using a unique reference number. Once submitted, your dependants can expect to receive a decision on their application within 21 days unless they use a premium service for a faster decision.

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