Spouse and Partner Visas – Meeting the Financial Requirement in Cash
COVID-19 and the financial impact of the global pandemic on many families has seen a rise in immigration enquiries about meeting the financial requirement when applying for a spouse visa or partner visa or applying to extend a family visa. In this blog we take another look at the financial requirement.
The financial requirement
They say that love doesn’t have a price but UK immigration solicitors say that when it comes to applying for your first spouse or partner visa and applying to extend a family visa the Home Office puts a price on it through the imposition of the financial requirement.
Appendix FM of the Immigration rules details the eligibility criteria for the family and spouse visa, including the financial requirement. The financial requirement applies to all types of family visa applications including:
- Spouse Visas.
- Partner visas for unmarried couples.
- Civil partner visas.
- Fiancé visas.
The Immigration rules say that a family (either the sponsor of the visa applicant or the visa applicant if they are legally entitled to work in the UK or a combination of both incomes) must have an income amounting to at least £18,600 gross per year for a family visa applicant to meet the financial requirement. The figure is higher if the couple have children.
Whilst the income requirement for family and spouse visas hasn’t increased in the last twelve months it can still be a struggle for some families to meet it ( for example, older retired couples on pension incomes) or to evidence their income (for example, where the partner sponsoring the partner visa applicant has set up a new business or works on a freelance basis).
Using cash to meet the financial requirement
The Immigration rules allow for cash to be used to meet the spouse visa financial requirement. As you would expect of the Home Office there are detailed rules about what cash can be accepted to meet the financial requirement and how it must be evidenced.
The first point that immigration solicitors stress is that using cash to meet the spouse visa financial requirement is only possible if you have savings of more than £16,000. That may strike you as unfair and arbitrary but that’s what the Immigration rules say.
To add to the complexities of understanding if you meet the financial requirement, it is possible to use a mix of income and cash savings. However, if you have children the amount required to meet the financial requirement is more than for a couple alone.
Using cash alone to meet the financial requirement
The Immigration rules allow you to use just cash to meet the financial requirement. You may need to do this if the partner sponsoring the family visa applicant isn’t working or it may be easier to do so if the sponsor is self-employed with complicated finances but substantial cash savings.
To qualify for a spouse or partner visa by meeting the financial requirement on cash savings only, you need savings of at least £62,500.
If you have less than £62,500 it may still be possible to use a combination of cash and income to meet the financial requirement, provided that the cash savings are over £16,000. Whether you can use a combination of income and cash will depend on the source of the income.
Who has to own the cash?
The Immigration rules say that the cash can be owned by:
- The person sponsoring the spouse visa or family visa applicant.
- The applicant for the spouse visa or partner visa.
- The couple – so the cash is held in a joint account.
The money can't be owned by a member of the family unless there are exceptional circumstances. That means however much money a parent or grandparent has it isn’t relevant unless the money has been given to the sponsor or visa applicant or both of them. A loan from family isn’t sufficient to meet the Immigration rules on cash savings unless exceptional circumstances apply.
If the sponsor owns their own home and there is a lot of equity in it that doesn’t count as cash savings even if the house is owned mortgage free and worth hundreds of thousands.
There are things that a visa applicant and sponsor and their family can do to raise cash, such as a gift of money, but options need to be very carefully thought out and the implications considered. For example, if family are willing to gift money, then potentially this should be combined with a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement.
If a family member does have cash and wants to help out it is best to take specialist legal advice to see if you meet the exceptional circumstances criteria for third party support in meeting the financial requirement and , if not, how potentially your family could still help you if they are willing to do so.
What amounts to cash?
When immigration solicitors refer to ‘cash’ you may be envisaging suitcases of money or stocks and shares or bitcoin. There are rules on the definition of what can amount to cash to meet the financial requirement.
The money has to be immediately accessible. That means that the cash can be held in a current account or a savings account or an investment account. There can even be penalties attached to the account for the early release of cash but the account can't be an account where notice has to be given to secure the release of the cash or where the assets are held in something other than cash, such as stocks and shares.
It can get confusing as money held in an ISA is acceptable in meeting the financial requirement but money held in a share dealing account may not be. That can result in tough decisions about whether you should liquidate investments to meet the financial requirement. If you are in that situation, it is best to get both expert spouse visa legal advice on meeting the financial requirement and your options as well as financial advice.
Does the cash have to be in the UK?
The cash to meet the financial requirement doesn’t have to be physically held in the UK. All or some of the money can be held overseas subject to the proviso that the cash must be held by a financial institution regulated by a regulatory body in the relevant country.
Time limits on holding cash to meet the financial requirement
If you are using cash savings to meet the financial requirement in whole or part then you can't just rely on evidence that shows you or the sponsor held the cash in an account or accounts on the date of the spouse visa or family visa application.
The Immigration rules say that savings must be held by the visa applicant or their sponsoring partner or by the couple jointly for at least six months before the date of the visa application.
In addition, when providing evidence of savings, any bank statements provided must be dated no earlier than twenty-eight days before the date of the spouse visa application. If you are relying on money raised through the sale of a property or a business or the sale of stocks and shares then you don’t need to have sold the asset over six months ago and have held the cash in a bank account for that period. However, you will need to be able to produce evidence of ownership of the asset. For example, office copy entries from the land registry showing date of purchase and sale of UK property.
Applying for a family visa
Applying for a family visa isn’t a straightforward process, especially where you have concerns about how you will meet the financial requirement or the best way to do so or the evidence you need to produce in support of your application. A specialist spouse visa solicitor can help you through the process and explain your best options and the paperwork needed.