UK raises family visa income requirement

| | New Delhi
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UK raises family visa income requirement

Saturday, 13 April 2024 | Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

UK raises family visa income requirement

In a possible upsetting development for Indians wishing to secure a visa and sponsor their families to migrate to the UK, it has substantially hiked the minimum income threshold by nearly 55 per cent. It means those who earn less than 29,000 pounds, will not be able to sponsor a family member’s visa in the country.

Part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans to cut down immigration levels, the order was passed on Thursday and became effective immediately. Income benchmark has been increased from 18,600 pounds to 29,000 pounds — an increase of more than 55 per cent — with a subsequent increase to 38,700 pounds slated for early next year.

“Today’s change comes as the Home Secretary meets his commitment to implement his major package of reforms to the immigration system within weeks of announcing them — which came following the unveiling of measures to tighten the student visa route in May 2023,” the UK Government said in a statement. Immigration is one of the key poll issues ahead of general elections in the UK this year, with surveys indicating that Sunak’s party, the Conservatives, is heading for a heavy defeat. The new regulations are part of Sunak’s plan to “cut unsustainable and unfair levels of migration, and ensure those arriving here do not burden the taxpayer”.

UK’s Interior Minister James Cleverly, explaining the rationale behind the latest policy change, said it is important to mitigate the strains posed by mass migration. “We have reached a tipping point with mass migration. There is no simple solution or easy decision which cuts numbers to levels acceptable to the British people,” he said.

Cleverly stressed the UK Government’s commitment to safeguarding  British workers and wages while ensuring that those relocating to the UK do not become reliant on public funds.

The revised income requirement seeks to ensure that families seeking to reunite in the UK show self-sufficiency, with provisions allowing for various means of meeting the threshold, including savings and income from employment.

 “I promised action and we have delivered at remarkable speed. We’ve acted to cut unsustainable numbers, to protect British workers and their wages, to ensure those bringing families to the UK do not burden taxpayers, and to build an immigration system fit for the future — and one the public can rightly have confidence in,” Cleverly added.

In addition to the alterations in income thresholds, the UK Government also implemented stringent regulations on student visas, alongside a substantial 66 per cent escalation in the health surcharge for foreign nationals accessing the National Health Service (NHS). With current immigration figures hovering at 745,000, the UK Government aims to cut it down to 300,000.

The annual earnings of nearly 50 per cent of people who migrated to the UK from India was less than 39,000 pounds in 2022, according to a report by the migration observatory at the University of Oxford.

Notably, Indians represent a significant portion of non-EU immigration into the UK, with substantial numbers arriving for study-related purposes. The surge in visas granted to dependents from India and Nigeria underscores the growing trend of family migration within these communities.

Indians have also consistently ranked among the top beneficiaries of skilled work visas, with a notable increase observed in the ‘Skilled Worker - Health and Care’ category. The number of such visas issued to Indians saw a 63 per cent hike from 13,380 in 2021-22 to 21,837 in 2022-23.

UK Home Office data show that Indian nationals represented 38 per cent of all dependants issued a work visa alongside main applicants, followed by Nigerian and Zimbabwean nationals (17 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively). However, the recent changes in the family visa rules will make it difficult for many Indian workers to meet the new criteria.

This move to increase the income threshold to sponsor a family member’s visa, initiated by Sunak and Home Secretary James Cleverly, aims to curb legal migration and alleviate taxpayer burdens, according to the UK Home Office.

Cleverly emphasised the necessity of reducing migration levels, acknowledging the complexities and challenges inherent in achieving a balance acceptable to the British populace.

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