You can find the answers to the most common questions, related to Covid-19, in our Blog post Covid and UK visas: most current questions.
If you are applying for a visa as a spouse, partner or fiancée of a UK citizen, you may have already come across the Financial Requirement £18,600. It is controversial, unpopular and looks like it’s here to stay. You have to meet it at the initial visa stage, during extension and permanent residency. In short, you and/or your partner need income of £18,600 per year (more if any children are included in your visa application), or savings of £62,500 held for 6 months; or you may use various combinations of income sources and savings.
British partner employed in the UK:
This option can be used for any partner visa type. Need to be in this employment for 6 months and during all that time on a salary of £18,600 per annum. If your earnings fluctuate, it will be calculated based on the average. If you haven’t been with this employer for the last 6 months, then you need the current salary of £18,600 pa and total earnings of £18,600 from any number of jobs in the last 12 months.
Foreign partner employed in the UK:
This option can be used if the foreign partner is applying inside the UK (switching, extending, ILR) and their current UK visa allows work. Same rules apply as above.
Foreign partner employed outside the UK:
This cannot be used, even for the entry visa, even if the non-British partner is a well-paid highly-skilled professional in the country of application.
British partner employed outside the UK:
This can be used for entry visa, usually when the couple are returning o the UK together after living abroad. Same rules apply to non-UK employment as above (6 months etc). It is, however, only acceptable if the British partner also has a confirmed job offer from a UK employer with a salary of £18,600.
This option can be used for any partner visa type. Savings can be in the UK or abroad, at any visa stage, even for permanent residency, held in the name of the applicant and/or the British partner. Amount needed for initial visa, switching or extension: £62,500 or equivalent in another currency, held for 6 months. Amount needed at the permanent residency stage: £34,600 or equivalent in another currency, held for 6 months.
This is one of the most common scenario we work with, and it can be the biggest challenge for many couples, especially a job offer in the UK. There is no quick fix and (if you can’t use other income sources), you may have to wait until you can meet this rule and only then apply for an entry visa as a spouse/partner or fiancée. Once we have helped the clients to figure it out, our clients secure a visa with no problem, and continue with us on the subsequent applications – all the way to British Citizenship 5 years later.
Most common scenarios:
Savings of £62,500, often kept outside the UK in investment accounts/funds.
Well-paid employment abroad plus a transfer to a UK branch (that acts as a job offer).
Pension (from any country), on its own or together with savings.
Income from a limited company, based in the UK or overseas.
Rental income from property. Can be property in any country, including the UK, but cannot be your intended UK home.
And if nothing else works ‘now’, there is this popular option: a British spouse/partner can return to the UK on his/her own, find a job that pays £18,600 per annum (doesn’t need to be ‘a career job’), work there for 6 months. Then the foreign spouse/partner can apply for a visa. You may have to be apart for a few months, but it is a solution that gives you a clear point in time when you will be able to meet the requirements.
Important: the visa rules are different from HMRC rules!
Sole trader (self-employed without a company): you need to have a profit of £18,600 in the last UK tax year. You have to submit a tax return for the finished tax year, even though HMRC only needs it 9 months later. Most common mistake: using the wrong financial year, such as an old tax return.
Director of limited company: you need to have received £18,600 during the last financial year of your company. This is based on your director’s salary and/or dividends. Remember, your company and you are separate legal entities on paper (even if you own 100% of it), so the company’s profit or sales (invoices) won’t be relevant. The focus is what you, as a person, received from it. You have to submit annual accounts for the finished year and file a company tax return, even though HMRC only needs it 9 months later. Most common mistakes: using the wrong company’s year or focusing on a personal tax return instead of the company’s year.
Contractors: one of the major confusion points and fortunately, we are a rare company that knows all about this! A contractor is not a legal type of business, so one would normally have their own limited company or sometimes act as a sole trader. We need to establish the exact form and act according to the options above. Most common mistake: since a contractor is an employee in reality but officially self-employed, the biggest mistake is focusing on the Employment option, counting the value of invoices as ‘salary’.
Self-employed without a company: this can be used in the situation when the British partner is self-employed outside the UK and returning back to the UK with the partner. Here the income of £18,600 is based on profit in the last tax year of the country in question. In addition, the British partner also needs either a job offer in the UK with a salary of £18,600 per annum or a proof they intend to establish self-employment in the UK.
This is an interesting yet little-known option that can be the answer for some couples returning to the UK from abroad. As we are specialists in various Financial Requirement solutions, we have successfully used this to help our clients.
Either spouse/partner (British or foreign, or both) can use dividend income from a foreign company that adds up to £18,600 and received in the last 12 months. Here we do not take into account a company’s financial year or the country’s tax year – only last 12 months before the date of visa application. 12 months is maximum, so if you earned enough in, say, last 4 months, that will suffice.
You do not need a job offer in the UK in this scenario and don’t need to submit a tax return or accounts. In fact, we treat this in the same way as dividend income from an investment, be it shares in your own company or a public company like Tesco Plc. But we cannot use your director’s salary at all.
Such dividend income can be used at any visa application stage, i.e. initial visa, extension or ILR, providing you continue to receive the dividend income as described here.
This option can be used for any partner visa type. Pension can be from a UK or non-UK provider, state or private. Can be in the name of the applicant and/or the British partner. The annual amount of income must be £18,600 but there is no need to have had it for the whole last 12 months if you recently started receiving it. We often see it combined with savings.
The rules for students are the same as for others, so the couples, where both are students or recent graduates, find it difficult. If one partner is working and earning a salary of £18,600 per annum, they could use the Employment option. Same if one is working full-time and the other part-time but together earning £18,600.
An ongoing bursary can also be used and the threshold is actually lower than £18,600 (approx. £15,000), although this tends to be for PhD courses. There is also a 1-year visa for PhD graduates that allows working in the UK and can be used as a ‘bridge’. You could also use a combination of bursary and part-time employment income.
The most common scenario: a British spouse/partner finds a job paying £18,600 pa (does not have to be a ‘career job’) and work there for 6 months. Then a foreign spouse can apply for a visa. If your Tier 4 visa does not last that long, you would have to wait (and possibly being apart) during this time, but you will have a clear plan when and how to meet the visa requirements.
Rental income can be used for any partner visa type. A property can be in any country. Can be held in the name of the applicant and/or the British partner as long as it is not your intended home in the UK. Rental income has to add up to £18,600 in the last 12 months (not in a tax year!). This is based on gross rent as on the tenancy agreement – not the profit.
If you own a property through a holding structure, such as a limited company, the rules will be different (see self-employment).
You cannot use the value of the property, but you sell it, deduct any debts and taxes, deposit the cash in a bank account and use the Savings option as described above. You don’t need to wait for 6 months after the sale.
We use the 3-step process:
Firstly, we suggest you have advice from an experienced immigration consultant. It may sound like we are promoting our own services (and we are!) but such a consultation may change your view on this rule. You may actually be told that you do meet it, or that you can meet it very soon, such as if you changed a job 5 months ago and may only need 1 more month to qualify under the earnings option. It may be other way around, too, you may be told that your plan of meeting it actually doesn’t meet the Immigration Rules. Often the case with savings or combination of income sources, which has to be calculated with the military precision. Here is another example: when the rules require ’12 months’, it’s wrong to count October to October, that’s 13 months!
Secondly, we consider when you can meet the requirement. Very often we see people coming to us and not meeting it now but being able to meet in 3, 6 or 12 months. For example, if you have savings but haven’t held them for 6 months, you will be able to meet this rule if you wait and apply later. Or if you don’t have a job offer in the UK now, you may consider coming to the UK without a foreign spouse/partner (ie only the British partner moving to the UK), getting a job, working for 6 months – and meeting the threshold under the Employment option. It often means waiting longer and being apart but it would be safer than ‘trying’, waiting and getting a refusal.
(Continues from above) Lastly, we consider an application under the 10-year route.
For example, you are in the UK on another visa or on a standard Spouse/Partner visa, your current visa is about to expire but you cannot meet the Financial Requirement. Maybe through a loss of a job, illness or another unfortunately event. So, the 10-year route could be a possibility. It does bear risk (more risk than the standard 5-year route) and it means potentially twice longer path to settlement (10 years instead of 5) but it is an option since you have to make an application before your current visa expires.
To read about the difference between 5 and 10-year route, please visit our In Detail page here.
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