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Home Office publishes COVID-19 minimum income policy for family visa route applicants

21 July 2020

On 17 July 2020 the Home Office updated its policy guidance to confirm a surprisingly limited concession to the usual minimum income requirements that most applicants for partner and child visas must meet.

The concession appears on the final page of the Home Office’s policy guidance on meeting the financial requirement for entry clearance, limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain applications under the Immigration Rules for the partners and children of British citizens and settled persons.

The guidance is intended to ensure that applicants are not disadvantaged as a result of circumstances beyond their control because of COVID-19.

It confirms that income received via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme can count as employment or self-employment income for the purposes of meeting the minimum income requirement, but only where there is evidence of a temporary loss of income due to COVID-19 between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020.

More specifically, it states the following:

  • a temporary loss of employment income between 1 March and 31 July 2020 due to COVID-19 will be disregarded provided the minimum income requirement was met at the required level for at least six months up to March 2020
  • an applicant or sponsor furloughed under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be deemed as earning 100% of their salary
  • a temporary loss of annual income due to COVID-19 between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded for self-employment income, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications
  • evidential flexibility may be applied where an applicant or sponsor experiences difficulty accessing specified evidence due to COVID-19 restrictions

The published policy guidance is concerning for two reasons.

Firstly, unless swiftly revised, it signals that the Home Office is not intending to make allowances where an applicant has a temporary loss of income beyond 31 July 2020. This could be disastrous for people who continue to be furloughed, who lose their job either in the near future or following the closure of the furlough scheme at the end of October, or whose income from self-employment continues to be impacted by the pandemic over the coming months.

Secondly, the policy guidance is more restrictive than the concession for family route applicants published on GOV. UK, which:

  • is stated to apply to both the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirements (which applies to the situation where the UK partner is in receipt of certain benefits or pensions)
  • does not specify an end date for which a loss of employment income will be considered to fall within the concessions

Although an individual’s application may not necessarily fall for refusal if they are unable to meet the minimum income or adequate maintenance requirement, if approved it is likely to result in the person being placed on a ten-year path to settlement rather than a five-year one.

Clarification is awaited from the Home Office to resolve the inconsistencies between the two sets of guidance, and whether the concessions will remain in place beyond the end of this month. More generally, many of the COVID-19 concessions need to be reviewed before the end of this month as they only cover the situation to 31 July 2020. We will provide a further information soon as there is an update.

Please contact a member of the immigration team if you have any queries about making applications under the family route or otherwise need assistance.  

 

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