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Home » Ministers Row Back On Salary Threshold For Family Visa

Ministers Row Back On Salary Threshold For Family Visa

Image source, Getty Images

By Callum May & Chas Geiger

BBC News

The government has rowed back on plans to hike the salary Britons need to bring family members to the UK to £38,700 next spring.

The increase – from the current level of £18,600 – was announced earlier this month as part of a plan to lower legal migration.

But the new threshold will initially be set at £29,000, with further increases at unspecified dates thereafter.

Labour said the change showed “Tory government chaos”.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said ministers had failed to consult properly on the new threshold, adding: “it’s no surprise they are now rowing back in a rush”.

Ministers had been facing pressure over the issue in recent weeks, amid warnings the new visa rules would keep families apart.

The government unveiled a package of measures to lower legal migration earlier this month, after figures showed it hit record levels last year.

Official estimates show net migration – the difference between the number of people coming to and leaving the UK – rose to 745,000 in 2022.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said that, from next spring, most foreign workers would need to earn at least £38,700 to qualify for a UK skilled worker visa.

He added this same threshold would apply to British citizens who want to sponsor a family member to come to the UK on a family visa.

However, Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom has now confirmed the change of plan in answer to a parliamentary question.

He said the threshold would now rise to £29,000 in the spring, before then rising “in incremental stages” to give “predictability”.

He said the plan was for it eventually to rise to £34,500 and then £38,700 – but no dates were given.

‘Unworkable’

The Home Office has also confirmed that the anyone who wants to renew a family visa will be able to, without having to meet the new earnings threshold.

A government factsheet said those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, would continue to have their applications assessed against the current income level.

The prime minister told MPs recently the government was looking at “transitional arrangements” for changes to the thresholds to make sure they were “fair”.

The Liberal Democrats said the planned £38,700 threshold was “unworkable”.

Home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael added: “This was yet another half-thought through idea to placate the hardliners on their own back benches.

“James Cleverly needs to put down the spade and stop digging. Decisions like this should be made by experts and politicians working together.

“He should also publish the advice from the Treasury and OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) about the impact that his package of changes will have on the economy”.

Reunite Families UK, a campaign group on UK visa rules that threatened legal action against the government over the salary limit, said the new £29,000 threshold was still “very high for most families”.

The group said the government’s decision to raise the threshold gradually was “baffling”, adding: “The process is already complicated enough without this too.”