- The detailed rules and policies
- The two requirements: accommodation
- The two requirements: funds
- Specified evidence
- What if I earn less than £18,600 a year?
- Category A – Sponsor in the UK
- Category A – Sponsor returning to the UK with the applicant
- Category B – Sponsor in the UK
- Category B – Sponsor returning to the UK with the applicant
- Category C – non-employment income
- Category D – Cash savings
- Category E – Pension
- Category F and G – self-employment and directorships
- Exceptional circumstances
One of the trickiest parts of applying for a UK visa as a spouse or partner are the financial requirements. Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules contains minimum financial requirements to be met in entry clearance or leave to remain applications. This is the topic of this post. If you are brave enough to delve into it, you will find a summary of the rules, evidential requirements and some examples that may assist with your application.
There are two financial requirements to be met: a minimum income which has to be demonstrated with specified documents, and adequate accommodation for the family.
People outside the UK will apply for “leave to enter” as the spouse or partner of a British or settled person, whereas people already in the UK will be applying for “leave to remain”. The rules for leave to enter and remain are similar, and we will mainly deal with leave to enter, occasionally highlighting the different requirements applicable to leave to remain applications.
There’s lots wrong with our asylum, immigration and citizenship laws. If you want to be properly informed, check out my book Welcome to Britain, now available in paperback.
The detailed rules and policies
When dealing with financial requirements, start by looking at rules E-ECP.3.1 to E-ECP.3.4 for leave to enter, and E-LTRP.3.1 to E-LTRP.3.4 for leave to remain, contained in Appendix FM. You find these by going to Appendix FM on the Home Office website and clicking on the “Family life with a partner” drop-down menu.
Having looked at these rules and selected the way in which they meet the financial requirement can be met, an applicant then has to look at Appendix FM-SE. This is a separate section of the Immigration Rules which lists the specific format in which evidence must be sent. It is then crucial to check the Home Office policy on the matter, which is updated from time to time.
We will refer to all these sources below as we summarise the requirements. We start with the accommodation, which is easier to prove.
The two requirements: accommodation
There are two financial requirements to be met: a minimum income which has to be demonstrated with specified documents, and “adequate” accommodation for the family.
“Family” includes other family members who are not applying for leave to enter or remain but who live in the same household.
We start with the accommodation, which is easier to prove.
Rule E-ECP.3.4 in Appendix FM says:
The applicant must provide evidence that there will be adequate accommodation, without recourse to public funds, for the family…
“Accommodation” means a flat, house or a room in a shared property. It must be owned or occupied exclusively by the family, without recourse to public funds.
“Family” includes other family members who are not applying for leave to enter or remain but who live in the same household.
Accommodation is “adequate” if it is not overcrowded or breaking public health regulations.
There are housing regulations saying what makes a room or house overcrowded. How these are applied in the immigration context is explained in Home Office guidance.
Essentially, you need to count the number of people sleeping in each room. Rooms include living rooms. There shouldn’t be more than a certain number of people per room of the house, and children of the opposite sex aged 10 or over should not have to share a room.
A couple can obviously share the same room, and children under the age of 1 are disregarded. Children between 1 and 9 years old count as one half of a person and anyone aged 10 or more counts as one person.
When you prepare the documents to submit with your application, you must include a description of the property, which clarifies the number of rooms available.
The two requirements: funds
The so-called minimum income rule is in section E-ECP.3.1 of Appendix FM.
The sponsor (i.e. the British citizen or settled person) must show that they can support their partner by earning a pre-tax annual salary of £18,600.
The sponsor’s income must be higher if any dependent children of the applicant or of the applicant’s partner are also applying for leave to enter or remain, or are already in the UK with leave as a dependant.
“Child” means any person under the age of 18 years, or who was under the age of 18 when they first applied for a visa under Appendix FM, and who is not British, settled or an EEA national.
For the first child, the additional gross income must be £3,800. It is £2,400 for any additional child. Put another way, the Home Office guidance says that the minimum income requirement is:
Partner with no children – £18,600
1 child in addition to the partner – £22,400
2 children in addition to the partner – £24,800
3 children in addition to the partner – £27,200
The financial requirement can be met by gross annual salary alone or (if below the threshold) in combination with savings. It is also possible to rely on savings alone.
Savings must amount to £16,000 plus the shortfall between the salary earned and the amount required, multiplied by 2.5.
The salary of the applicant does not count for an entry clearance application. Only the sponsor’s salary can be counted. In extension of leave applications, the income of the applicant will also be taken into account, as long as it is not the result of illegal working. We will look at sources of income in more detail in the “What if I earn less than £18,600 a year?” section.
Sponsor in receipt of benefits
If the sponsor is on benefits, they meet the income requirement if they receive one or more of the following:
- disability living allowance
- severe disablement allowance
- industrial injury disablement benefit
- attendance allowance
- carer’s allowance
- personal independence payment
- Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
- Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme or
- Police Injury Pension
Other benefits are not accepted as source of income, and cannot be relied upon.
A common reason for refusal in Appendix FM applications is the fact that the applicant fails to submit the “specified evidence” required.
Documents showing how someone meets the financial requirements must be presented in a specific format, explained in Appendix FM-SE.
For example, bank statements must be originals, or stamped by the bank on each page or accompanied by a cover letter from the financial institution. The bank account must belong to the sponsor or jointly to the sponsor and the applicant.
Payslips must be originals or accompanied by a letter of the employer, which must contain certain information about the employment, such as level of income, type of employment and length of employment.
Savings must be in cash (this means that they can be easily withdrawn, not that you need to keep your money under the mattress).
Foreign currencies must be converted using the oanda.com website.
It is important to ensure that the format of any document is correct, or the application will be refused.
It is also fundamental that the evidence covers the specified time period.
Generally speaking, the most recent document must not be older than 28 days before the day the application is submitted.
Employment must cover six consecutive months before the application and evidence of self-employment must normally cover the latest financial year. Savings above the required limit must have been in the sponsor’s (or applicant’s) bank account for six consecutive months.
It is difficult to describe all the requirements in different circumstances, and it is therefore very important to look at Appendix FM-SE to ensure all the necessary documents are provided in the right format.
What if I earn less than £18,600 a year?
If your sponsor earns, say, £50,000 a year in a job they have been working in for years you probably don’t need to worry about this section. This is a much more detailed discussion of the minimum income requirement for people whose sponsors don’t earn £18,600, or have just started a new job, or might be struggling to meet the threshold for some other reason.
There are various ways in which the required income and/or savings can be demonstrated. In some cases sources of income can be mixed and matched, in others they cannot.
The Home Office policy guidance deals with the various categories, and it is not easy reading, even for immigration lawyers who are used to the Rules’ convoluted style.
Category A – Sponsor in the UK
It is possible to count income in this category when the sponsor (and/or the applicant if they are in the UK with permission to work) has been working for six months or more for the same employer. The sponsor can be in salaried or non-salaried employment.
Non-salaried employment means employment paid at an hourly or other rate (and the number and/or pattern of hours required to be worked may vary) or paid an amount which varies according to the work undertaken.
When the sponsor is in salaried employment, their salary for the six-month period must be equal or above the required minimum income.
When the sponsor is in non-salaried employment, they will have to calculate the annual equivalent of their average gross monthly income from non-salaried employment in the six months prior to the date of application. This means that they have to add up their actual gross income received in the last six months, divide by six to obtain a monthly average, and multiply by 12, to get the annual average.
If the total income is below the required threshold, it is possible to combine it with Category C, D and E (non-employment income, cash savings and pension), which we will look at below, to meet the requirement.
If you are utterly confused after reading the above, here’s an example that may help clarify things.
Category A – Sponsor returning to the UK with the applicant
Sponsors who have not been living in the UK are in a different position. They also need to having been working for the same employer for the past six months, although in this case it will be an employer overseas. But they also need to also have a job offer of salaried or non-salaried employment in the UK, starting within three months of their return, with an income equal or above the threshold.
Category B – Sponsor in the UK
This category applies to sponsors (and applicants if legally working in the UK) who have not been in the same salaried or non-salaried employment for at least six months before the application, or to those on variable income.
This category requires two different calculations:
- Gross annual salary/income at the date of the application and
- Actual salary/income received in the 12 months prior to the application.
Both calculations must show income above the required threshold.
Therefore, firstly the sponsor must calculate their gross annual salary.
If they are in salaried employment, they must count their gross annual salary at the date of the application.
If they are in non-salaried employment, they must add up their total income in the time they have been doing that job prior to the date of application, divided by the number of months and multiplied by 12 (it’s different if payment is weekly or daily).
If the total income is below the required threshold, it is again possible to combine it with income or savings in Categories C, D and E which we will see below.
If the sponsor and the applicant wish to combine their income, they have to rely on Category B only, so it is not possible for one to rely on Category A and the other on Category B.
Secondly, the applicant and/or sponsor have to calculate their actual income (from salaried or non-salaried employment) in the 12 months preceding the application. Income from Category C and E can be added to hit the threshold, but not income from Category D (cash savings).
Category B – Sponsor returning to the UK with the applicant
In this case the sponsor does not need to be employed but needs to have a job offer starting within three months of their return, with a gross annual starting salary (or in non-salaried employment a gross annual income from that employment) equal to or above the required threshold. The income can be “topped up” using Category C, D or E.
The second part of the requirement is that the sponsor must have received a gross amount of salaried or non-salaried employment income overseas equal or above the required threshold, in the 12 months preceding the application. This income can be topped up using Category C or E but not D (cash savings).
Category C – non-employment income
These sources of funds can be counted to demonstrate the minimum income requirement is met:
- Property rental
- Dividends or other income from investments, stocks and shares, bonds or trust funds
- Interest from savings
- Maintenance payments from a former partner of the applicant in relation to the applicant or any children of the applicant and their former partner. Also, maintenance payments from a former partner of the applicant’s partner in relation to that partner
- UK Maternity Allowance, Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance
- Payments under the War Pensions Scheme, the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and the Armed Forces Attributable Benefits Scheme
- A maintenance grant or stipend (not a loan) associated with undergraduate study or postgraduate study or research
- Ongoing insurance payments
- Ongoing payments from a structured legal settlement
- Ongoing royalty payments
Income received from the sources above within 12 months from the date of the application can be counted.
In relation to dividends, those can be counted under Category D only if the company from which dividends are drawn is not a family business of the type described under category F or G, which we will look at later.
As a general rule, Category C can be combined with Category A, B, D and E.
Category D – Cash savings
Only savings above £16,000 can be considered.
This category can be combined with Category A, Category B (part 1, calculating current income), Category C and E, but not with Category B (part 2 – past income) or F and G.
“Cash savings” means that the money must be held in a current, deposit or investment account, provided by a financial institution regulated by the appropriate regulatory body in the UK or overseas. The money must be readily accessible, so for example a pension fund would not count, as money cannot be withdrawn immediately.
It is also important to remember that the savings must have been held for at least six months, must be in the name of the sponsor and/or the applicant and may come from any legal source. Whoever owns the money will have to sign a declaration stating the source.
Funds previously held in investments, stocks, shares, bonds or trust funds can count if they are liquidated before the application, and it is not necessary to liquidate those six months before the application. The same is true in case where the money are the proceeds of sale of a property (dwelling or land). This has to be clearly demonstrated with documentary evidence.
Category E – Pension
The gross annual income from any state pension (UK or foreign), occupational pension or private pension received by the applicant’s partner or the applicant can be counted towards the financial requirement if the pension has become a source of income at least 28 days prior to the application.
This category can be combined with Category A, B, C and D.
Category F and G – self-employment and directorships
Where the sponsor (and/or the applicant if they are in the UK with permission to work) is self-employed, they can use income from
- the last full financial year (Category F) or
- the average from the last two financial years (Category G)
Self-employed people have to use documents covering the last financial year, which runs from 6 April to 5 April of the following year in the UK but may vary in other countries.
You would also have to count your income in Category F or G if you are either the director or employee (or both) of a “specified limited company” in the UK. This essentially means a family business. A specified limited company is where:
- the person is either a director or employee of the company, or both, or of another company within the same group; and
- shares are held (directly or indirectly) by the person, their partner or the following family members of the person or their partner: parent, grandparent, child, stepchild, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or first cousin; and
- any remaining shares are held (directly or indirectly) by fewer than five other persons.
Directors of companies must use the company tax year, which means the period covered by the Company Tax Return CT600, and must cover 12 full months.
If a person has different financial years, or the sponsor and the partner’s income cover different-ending financial years, their income from the self-assessment tax return and Company Tax Return financial years cannot be combined.
The same is true when one tries to combine Category F or G with Category A, C or E. It is permissible to combine income from these categories only when this covers the same period of time, and each source of income has to be available for the whole period of time.
Many detailed rules cover both the requirements and the specified evidence that must be submitted under Category F and G. Therefore it is very important to read the relevant provisions once you decide which category you intend to use, to ensure every requirement is met.
It is very common for Appendix FM applications to be refused on a technicality, for example because documentation in the wrong format has been provided.
If the applicant and sponsor are unable to satisfy any of the categories above, other reliable sources of income can be taken into account.
This is the consequence of court cases which led to a relaxation of the rules.
Paragraph GEN 3.1 of the Immigration Rules now states that when
It is evident from the information provided by the applicant that there are exceptional circumstances which could render refusal of the application a breach of Article 8 because it could result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner or a relevant child
it is acceptable to produce evidence of other credible and reliable sources of income, financial support or funds available to the couple.
The threshold to satisfy, in order to benefit from this rule, is a high one. Chris discusses exceptional circumstances in this post: Home Office makes changes to Appendix FM Minimum Income Rule following MM case. I discuss exceptional circumstances applications further in a recent Free Movement podcast.