December 27, 2019

Spouse visa financial requirement for spouses returning to the UK

Spouse visa financial requirement is always aa tricky issue in a spouse visa application.

For a British or settled individual who is relocating to the UK with their non-British or settled partner after spending time overseas, the financial requirement for a spouse visa can be trickier than for couples where the sponsor is already in the UK. In this blog post, we take a look at the specific rules concerning the financial requirement for couples preparing to return to the UK together. In a subsequent post we will take a more detailed look at how the requirement can be met through the Sponsor’s employment or self-employment.

Employment

If a UK spouse visa applicant (the partner who is not British or settled) has been working outside the UK for a non-UK company, their income from this work cannot usually be used to meet the financial requirement (while this is the general rule, it should be noted that the case may be different if the applicant has been working for a UK-based company overseas).

Income from a Sponsor (the British or settled partner), on the other hand, can be relied upon to meet the requirement even when it comes from work undertaken outside of the UK for a non-UK company. However, there are some additional requirements which the Sponsor must meet in order for a couple who wish to return to the UK to rely on this overseas income.

The requirements for a Sponsor returning to the UK are different from those for a Sponsor who is already in the UK and working. For a Sponsor already in the UK, the rules will only look backwards, generally to the monthly income during the 6-month period leading up to the date of application, provided that they are still employed on the date of application. However, for couples who are overseas and looking to come back to the UK, and who are relying on the Sponsor’s overseas employment in order to meet the financial requirement, the rules are both backward-looking and forward-looking.

We will cover how the financial requirement can be met through employment for couples returning to the UK in a subsequent post.

Cash savings

An amount of cash savings which has been held by the Applicant, the Sponsor or both jointly for at least the 6-month period prior to the date of application, and which is under the Applicant/Sponsor’s control, can count towards the financial requirement. This amount must be above the minimum level of £16,000. For a partner without dependent children, if relying only on cash savings, the required amount to be held in savings is £62,500 (although this amount will be calculated differently if cash savings are being combined with any other type of income, or if a partner has dependent children).

For a Sponsor who is in paid employment at the date of application who is returning to the UK, current cash savings can be used to make up any deficit in either the backward-looking requirement (which looks to income in the 6 months leading up to the application) or the forward-looking requirement (which looks to the employment to which the Sponsor is returning in the UK).

Selling assets

If money is held in a way which means it cannot be immediately withdrawn, such as in an investment account, stocks, shares, bonds or trust funds, it will not meet the requirements to be considered as cash savings. However, if a couple choose to liquidate their investments into cash savings in order to meet the financial requirement, then the 6-month period during which the cash savings must be held does not have to start from scratch at the moment of liquidation. The time period during which the cash savings were held as investments can be counted towards the 6-month period, as long as they were always in the ownership and under the control of the Applicant/Sponsor.

This principle also applies for the sale of property. If the Applicant/Sponsor owned property and has sold it prior to the application to produce cash savings, the time during which the property was held in ownership can count towards the 6-month period required.

The property sold can be in the UK or overseas. If a returning couple sell a property that they had owned overseas, the proceeds from this sale can go to meet the financial requirement and the previous period of ownership can count towards the 6-month time period.

Property rental income

A couple returning to the UK from overseas may also rely on income from property rental to meet the financial requirement. This will be based on the income received from the property during the 12 months leading up to the date of application.

As of the date of the application, the property must be held in the name of the Applicant, the Sponsor, or both jointly. Income from properties overseas, as well as in the UK, can be counted.

Property rental income can only be counted if it comes from a property that is not being used as the couple’s main residence. The property must also not become the couple’s main residence if the application is granted and they return to live in the UK.

As an exception to this rule, a couple returning to the UK are able to rely on income from a property that will become their main residence in the UK if it counts towards the backward-looking part of the requirement only. It can be combined with the Sponsor’s overseas employment in the months leading up to the application, in order to meet that part of the requirement. However, it cannot be combined with the forward-looking part of the requirement, which looks at income from the Sponsor’s job offer in the UK. This is because the property in the UK will no longer be a source of income once the couple return to live there as their main residence.

Pension income

The annual income from any State, occupational or private pension which the Applicant or Sponsor receives may be counted towards the financial requirement. It can be counted as long as the pension has become a source of income at least 28 days prior to the application.

The State pension can be from the UK or from any foreign State, so couples returning to the UK are able to rely on the Applicant’s income from an overseas pension authority to meet the financial requirement.

Maintenance grant or stipend

The Applicant or Sponsor’s income in the form of an academic maintenance grant or stipend can be counted towards the financial requirement. Where this is paid on a tax-free basis, the amount of the gross equivalent can be counted towards the financial requirement. The rules do not stipulate that the maintenance grant or stipend should be from a UK-based institution.

Step 1: looking back to income already earned

The rules are different depending on whether the Sponsor is still in employment on the date of application, and if so, whether the Sponsor has been with their current employer for 6 months or more.

Currently in employment, and has been with the current employer for 6 months or more

Salaried employment

If the Sponsor is in salaried employment overseas at the date of application, and has been employed by the same employer for at least 6 months prior to the date of application, then the salary that they have been receiving can be relied on, even though this was earned outside the UK. The Sponsor must have been paid throughout the period of 6 months prior to the date of application at a level of gross annual salary which equals or exceeds the level relied upon in the application. For a partner without dependent children, if relying only on income from employment, this amounts to a minimum salary of £18,600 annually (although this amount will be calculated differently if employment income is being combined with any other type of income, or if a partner has dependent children).

Non-salaried employment

Income from employment overseas does not have to be in the form of a salary. For non-salaried employment, the average annual income can be calculated by simply doubling the total gross income earned during the 6-month period leading up to the date of application. For a partner without dependent children, if relying only on income from employment, this would be a minimum income of £18,600 annually (or £9,300 during the 6 months leading up to the date of application).

Self-employment

If the Sponsor is self-employed, they can still rely on work undertaken overseas to meet the financial requirement, as long as the couple meet the requirement in paragraph E-LTRP.1.10 of Appendix FM (that they intend to live together permanently in the UK).

In terms of calculating the annual income, a self-employed Sponsor has two options. They can use their total income from the last full financial year to meet the requirement. Alternatively, if they wish, they may use a yearly average of the income received in the last two full financial years.

The relevant financial year will reflect the requirements of the taxation system of the country where the self-employment took place (rather than the UK financial year, which runs from 06 April to 05 April the following year).

This income can be combined with other sources of income (such as salaried or non-salaried employment, non-employment income or pension income), but all these sources of income must fall within the same financial year as the self-employed income, and must still be a source of income at the time of the application.

Not in employment at the date of application, or has not been with current employer for 6 months or more

If the Sponsor is not in employment, or has not been employed with their current employer for 6 months or more, their income during the 12 months leading up to the date of application can be considered. During this 12-month period, the Sponsor must have received the minimum amount necessary to meet the financial requirement. This income can be through any kind of employment: salaried, non-salaried or self-employment.

For all types of employment overseas, income in a foreign currency can be converted to pounds sterling (£) using the closing spot exchange rate which appears on www.oanda.com on the date of application.

Step 2: looking forward to future earnings in the UK

Regardless of the Sponsor’s employment status at the date of application, they will also have to meet a second requirement involving their future in the UK. They must have a confirmed offer of salaried or non-salaried employment to which they will return in the UK. The employment must start within 3 months of their return. If the employment is salaried, it must have a gross annual starting salary sufficient to meet the level of financial requirement relied on. If the employment is non-salaried, the employer must provide evidence that the Sponsor will have a gross annual income sufficient to meet the level of financial requirement relied on. This will be based on the amount of pay and the standard or core hours to be worked by the Sponsor. A letter from the employer must be provided, confirming the job offer, salary and starting date of the role (which must be within 3 months of the Sponsor’s return to the UK), as well as the signed contract of employment.

A Sponsor who is self-employed overseas, and who is relying on their self-employment to meet the backward-looking part of the requirement, can rely on continuing their self-employment in the UK in order to meet the forward-looking part of the requirement. They must provide evidence that their self-employment is ongoing and will be continuing in the UK. This can be in the form of an application to the appropriate authority for a licence to trade, details of the purchase or rental of business premises, a signed employment contract or a signed contract for the provision of services, or a partnership of franchise agreement signed by the relevant parties to the agreement.

Top