10 April 2020
An updated Home Office guidance on the UKVI financial requirement is urgently required, as many sponsoring British citizens and permanent residents who have been furloughed or lost their jobs are no longer able to satisfy the financial criteria to sponsor their fiancée, unmarried partner or spouse for a UK settlement visa or leave to remain. Despite the ongoing lockdown resulting in a drastic surge of people losing their jobs or struggling to break into the workforce, the Home Office has yet to release an updated guidance for Appendix FM family applications.
Even those sponsors who are currently furloughed to receive the government funding that covers 80% of their usual wage, up to £2,500 a month, may not be able to meet the minimum income requirement as a result of the pay cut. It remains to be seen how the Home Office will treat sponsors who have been furloughed when assessing their financial situation in order to make a final determination of eligibility to sponsor their partner or spouse for a settlement visa. Obviously, the financial requirement cannot remain the same, i.e. £18,600 per annum for couples with no children, during these unprecedented times. The Home Office policy must be updated to address this issue, as otherwise many couples would be unfairly disqualified on financial grounds.
Life in the UK and English language test requirements and changes
Whilst the IELTS centers have confirmed that they are exercising social distancing in locations that are still open, each applicant should check the British Council website to ensure that their local test center is open. If the test centers are open in your local area and accepting applicants, we would encourage you to use your discretion in maintaining the proper precautions.
For individuals who are required to pass the Life in the UK test in order to settle or naturalise in the UK, the test centers within the UK have suspended all tests until they hopefully reopen on 11 May 2020. As for tests which have already been booked, they will automatically be moved to new dates commencing 12 May 2020. However, it remains unclear at this stage how applicants whose BRPs expire before they are able to take an English or Life in the UK test should proceed, as the new Home Office online application form requires a unique Life in the UK test pass reference number. It is impossible to submit the online form without this piece of information.
UK marriage visa advisers are here to help
We are aware that it can be challenging to contact the UKVI and we are able to assist you in successfully updating your status in the UK. Additionally, due to the preparation required in submitting an entry clearance or FLR/ILR application we can still provide our services in helping our clients prepare all the necessary documents for consideration and submission in advance of restrictions being lifted. In preparing early, this enables us to mitigate any delays or influx of applications once the COVID-19 lockdown ends and the UKVCAS, TLS and VFS offices reopen.
Additionally, we realise that due to the UK government furlough affecting the income of some families and sponsors, we would recommend contacting us well in advance so that we can assist you with new financial categories that will hopefully be announced in the near future. We realise that the 80/20 furlough or worse means that sponsors will be on a tax credit arrangement.
Therefore, we encourage you to contact us now, so we can review the best Appendix FM rules which will now meet your circumstances. We continue to review the UKVI COVID-19 policies and procedures along with UKVCAS to keep our clients well informed of the best step forward.
We are a modern and technologically astute firm which enables us to work remotely during these unprecedented times. This means that we are still able to follow up on the relevant systems to check UKVCAS openings, and passport returns as we are aware that many had intended to submit an entry clearance or further leave to remain application before the COVID-19 crisis.