Home Office reduces new salary threshold for family visas from £38,700 to £29,000

The Home Office said the salary threshold would go up incrementally, starting at £29,000
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Ministers have rowed back on plans to increase salary thresholds for family visas in the spring following a backlash.

The Government announced earlier this month that, from spring next year, people must be earning at least £38,700 to bring a family member or partner from abroad to the UK. The current minimum wage is £18,600. But on Thursday, Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom said the threshold would initially increase to £29,000.

The Government also confirmed that the changes would only apply to new visa applicants and those already in the UK will only have to meet the current, much lower, income requirements.

In answer to a written parliamentary question, Lord Sharpe said: "At the current Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) level, 75 per cent of the UK working population meet the MIR level.

"At the higher MIR of £38,700 - the median salary level for those on the skilled worker route, and all else being constant, around 30 per cent of the UK working population could meet the threshold based on earnings alone.

"The MIR will be increased in incremental stages to give predictability.

"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."

No date for when the threshold would rise beyond £29,000 was given.

Responding the apparent climb down, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said: “You have to wonder who is in charge at the Home Office, or if anyone is. It was clear to everyone else that the raising of the earnings threshold was unworkable.  

"This was yet another half thought through idea to placate the hardliners on their own back benches."

The proposals designed to bring down immigration to Britain sparked backlash when they were announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly earlier in December.

It was argued that many British people working in professional jobs, such as teachers, police officers and junior doctors, would be unable to bring a loved one to live with them from abroad.

Immigrants and families already living in the UK and earning under the threshold were left in limbo, not knowing whether they would be allowed to stay when they renewed their visa.

On Thursday, Mr Cleverly said: "I have been clear that current levels of migration to the UK are far too high. The British people are, rightly, frustrated and want to see action.

"This is why the government announced a plan to decisively cut net migration and ensure the system is fair and works for the people of this country. 

"It is vital that British workers are not undercut and that we ease the strain on our public services. The measures I have announced prioritise those who will contribute significantly to our economy, whilst cracking down on those who seek to take advantage of our kindness.

“Today, I have provided further detail about how these measures will be applied and when they will be introduced. 

“This plan will deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration, with around 300,000 fewer people coming to the UK compared to last year, delivering on our promise to bring the numbers down."

The Home Office confirmed that visa applications already submitted would be assessed under the old rules.