What is the change? The Home Office has published a statement of immigration changes that will require its officers in certain cases to consider alternative sources of income or financial support in determining whether a U.K. citizen or settled person meets the £18,600 minimum income for purposes of sponsoring a non-EEA family member. If successful, the non-EEA family member will be granted entry on a 10-year track to settled status (instead of five years), with the potential to apply for the five-year route if they subsequently meet the minimum income requirements.

What does the change mean? The change does not affect Tier 2 workers or points-based migrants or European nationals and their family members; however, the new policy will benefit some family unification cases for U.K. citizens and residents who do not otherwise meet the income threshold.

  • Implementation time frame: The Home Office will use the new criteria beginning Aug. 10, regardless of when applications are filed.
  • Visas/permits affected: Spousal visas and other Appendix FM visas.
  • Who is affected: U.K. citizens and residents applying for a non-EEA spouse, partner or child to join them in the U.K.

Background: The policy change comes in response to a Supreme Court ruling in MM (Lebanon) & Others in February that upheld the minimum-income requirement but also demanded that the Home Office allow more flexible proof of alternative sources of income to address the harsh results of applying an absolute income threshold.  

The new rules only apply in “specified circumstances,” namely:

  1. When the minimum income requirement is not otherwise met, and
  2. When it is evident that “exceptional circumstances” in which refusal of the application would breach the applicant’s human rights because it would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner or child under 18.

If the two conditions are met, the Home Office will consider the following forms of alternative funding sources:

  • A credible guarantee of sustainable financial support from a third party.
  • A genuine job offer or self-employment for the applicant/ non-EEA spouse.
  • Any other credible and reliable source of income or funds available to the couple.

Applicants must present verifiable documentary proof of the alternative sources. Home Office decision-makers will make assessments on a case-by-case basis and must consider certain factors in determining whether the alternative sources are genuine, credible and reliable.

BAL Analysis: The change does not affect Tier 2 workers or points-based migrants or European nationals and their family members, but helps to relieve a harsh rule that affects some low-earning British citizens and permanent residents.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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