UK Spouse visa rules changed dramatically in July 2012. A new set of financial requirements for the British sponsor are a challenge to immigration officers, let alone practitioners and lay clients. The author explains how the new financial requirements work.


From July 2012, applicants for a spouse visa to the UK have to demonstrate that they are coming to join their sponsor in the UK, a British citizen or a person with indefinite leave to remain, who has sufficient income or savings in order to meet the new “maintenance requirements” under the immigration rules.

The required income for the sponsor is £18,600 gross a year. If any non British children are coming to the UK with the non-British spouse, there is an additional requirement of £3800 a year for the first child and £2400 for each further child.

It should be emphasised that only the sponsor’s earnings are taken into the calculation, earnings of the non British spouse are ignored, except where the couple have been living and working lawfully in the UK prior to the application by the non-British partner to change their immigration status.

There are five ways of meeting the maintenance requirement:

* British partner’s income from employment;
* British partner’s income from self-employment;
* non-employment income, for example dividends from shares, property rental, etc, of either of the partners;
* state or private pension of either partner;
* cash savings of either partner in excess of £16,000 held for at least six months.

Income from employment can be relied on when the applicant’s partner is in salaried employment at the date of the application and has been with the same employer for at least 6 months. If there was a salary rise in the six months preceding the application, it is the lowest salary that is taken into the calculation.

In addition to the income from salary, reliance can be made on gross amount of non-employment income in the 12 months preceding the application, provided the asset from which this income derives is still owned by the applicant or the British partner.

Cash savings in excess of £16,000 are also taken into calculation: any amount of savings above £16,000 is divided by 2.5. Thus where the couple holds savings of £21,000, the amount they can rely on for the purpose of the application is £21,000-£16,000 = £5,000/2.5 = £2,000.

Where the British partner has not been with the same employer for the last six months, the salary at the date of the application should be sufficiently high to meet the threshold (if necessary topped up by other forms of income), plus gross income in the 12 months preceding the application should also meet the threshold requirement. Thus, if the applicant’s partner finds employment upon completion of studies (assuming he was not working when studying), his salary is £16,600 and he has savings of £21,000, and the applicant applies for spouse visa two months after the British partner commences employment, the calculation is as follows: annual salary of £16,600 plus £2000 (applicable figure on the basis of £21000 cash savings) meets only the first limb of the requirement – that on the date of the application their income is not less then £18,600.

If the applicant’s partner had been in paid employment prior to taking up his current employment, his income from this employment counts towards the second limb of the maintenance test – he needs to demonstrate that the amount of money he received in 12 months prior to the application was not less than £18600 in gross terms.

British partners repatriating to the UK with their non-British partners need to demonstrate sufficient income in a similar fashion. Where this income is derived from employment outside the UK, the British partner has to have a job offer in the UK with proposed commencement date not later than three months after the date of the application for spouse visa.