Ministers row back on salary threshold for family visa

26 minutes ago
About sharing

By Callum May & Chas Geiger
BBC News

The government has rowed back from increasing the earnings threshold for people who want to come to the UK on family visas to £38,700 a year.

Home Secretary James Cleverly announced on 7 December that someone who wanted to bring their partner or dependant to the UK would need to earn that amount.

But a document published on Thursday said the threshold would now be set at £29,000 a year “as part of an initial implementation”.

The current figure is £18,600.

The move will take effect in the spring.

Ministers have been under pressure to tighten controls on legal migration after the number of people coming to the UK reached record levels in 2022.

Net migration – the difference between the number of people coming to and leaving the UK – rose to 745,000.

Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom confirmed the change of plan in answer to a written parliamentary question.

He said the current threshold of £18,600 allowed 75% of the UK working population to bring foreign family members into the country to live – but increasing the threshold to £38,700 would limit the same right to 30%.

Lord Sharpe said: “In spring 2024, we will raise the threshold to £29,000, that is the 25th percentile of earnings for jobs which are eligible for Skilled Worker visas, moving to the 40th percentile (currently £34,500) and finally the 50th percentile (currently £38,700 and the level at which the general skilled worker threshold is set) in the final stage of implementation.”

The minister said the threshold would be “increased in incremental stages to give predictability”.

However, no date for when the threshold would rise beyond £29,000 was given in his answer, nor did one appear in the Home Office paper published on Thursday.

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

Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms had told Rishi Sunak that the proposed new threshold would dash the marriage plans of thousands of couples.

In response to Lord Sharpe’s announcement, he told the BBC he welcomed “this U-turn”.

He added: “However, there will still be couples with firm marriage plans who will not now be able to go ahead.”

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.”