Saturday, 16 July 2011

Here We Go Again - More Proposed Changes To UK Visa's

In July 2011 the UK government published a consultation on proposed changes to family migration (which includes the spouse of British nationals).  The closing date if you wish to respond to the consultation is on 6th October 2011.  The implementation of the proposals is to take place from April 2012.
As we will be submitting my wife's settlement visa application before this date, it remains to be seen how the proposed changes will effect us.  However, the consultation contains important information for those considering applying for settlement to the UK over the coming months.  The document is long and involved so I have tried to extract the important information in relation to spouses in keeping with the theme of this blog.

The consultation follows on from recent changes to other areas such as student and economic visa  applications "We have already capped the number of economic migrants coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area. We have announced plans to reform student visas and to clamp down on bogus colleges. We also recently launched a consultation aimed at breaking the link between temporary migration and permanent settlement. As a result of our policies we anticipate net migration will be in the tens of thousands in future.  But we have been clear that we will take action across all the routes of entry to the UK, so we must also take action on the family migration route" 

From what I can tell the key proposals relating to spouse applications are as follows:-

  • Increasing the probationary period before applying for settlement from two years to five years.  As it stands when a foreign spouse enters the UK they are given a two year probation period.  After that two years they can then apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain).  This will be increased to five years under the new proposals.  This would also mean that the spouse would also not be able to claim benefits until after that five year period.
  • Introducing stricter or a more clear definition of what they consider to be a "genuine and continuing relationship, marriage or partnership".  How exactly they intend to do that is not clear and they "invite views on how that definition should be framed".  One suggestion is that "the couple have been in a relationship for a minimum of 12 months prior to the marriage visa or leave to remain application, and must be able to evidence regular contact during those 12 months."
  • Increasing the income requirement of the sponsor considered sufficient to support the applicant without the need for recourse to public funds.  At present, what is considered sufficient is based on the current level of Income Support.  The document states that only the sponsors income and savings will be taken into account.  It is also suggested that, given the current economic climate, the applicants potential earnings from working in the UK will not be taken into account as part of the requirement.  Third party support will also not be considered, an example being if the sponsors parents were providing financial support for the couple.
  • Reintroduction of an "attachment requirement".  This means that the applicant and sponsor would have to show a combined "attachment" to the UK greater than to any other country other than marriage.  The proposed outline of this is based on the system used in Denmark.  One criteria of the Danish system states that the applicant must have visited the country at least 2 times before applying for the visa.
  • Applicants to have an understanding of "everyday English".  This would mean an increase to the B1 level from the current A1 level.
  • Currently couples who have lived together for 4 years or more outside of the UK can be granted immediate settlement, leave to remain on return to the UK.  Under the new proposals they would be made to complete the new 5 year probationary period.
  • Appeals for family visitor visa refusals would be scrapped
So what are my thoughts?  Well there are probably some good points in there and also some bad.  I haven't had a chance to get my head around everything yet, simply because of the volume of information in there. What I haven't mentioned in the above is the amount of times the "burden on the tax payer" is highlighted in the consultation document.  It's brought up too many times in my opinion and it seems like the government are using this as the basis to win favour with the general public.  I also believe that the proposals are politically motivated, rather than a genuine attempt to tackle the immigration issue.

For anyone thinking of going down the settlement visa route these are important times and I would seriously recommend having a read through the consultation.  It may seem like pretty boring stuff but could potentially have a major impact on future applications.  The consultation can be found here:-

Instructions on how to respond to the consultation can be found here:-
Closing date for responding to the consultation is 6th October 2011

I suspect the decision on which, if any of the proposals will be implemented has already been made.  But I for one will certainly be taking the time to complete the response form.  I would suggest anyone with a personal interest do the same, however little effect it may or may not have on the outcome.



  1. Hi Steve,

    This is really interesting, thanks for posting this. I may be in a position where I have to move back to the UK in the future, and I would of course want my GF to come with me. What seems very sad is that clearly the previous gov made a complete hash of the overall immigration policy and allowed the country's resources to be exploited to the detriment of all, probably including the immigrants in some respects. And now, genuine applicants like your wife, and perhaps my GF in the future, will have trouble getting a settlement. What would concern me is this new A1 English GF can speak English, but taking a test is a whole different ball game. Are they then planning to test existing immigrants to make it fair? I doubt it.

  2. Hi TTL,

    I agree the previous government probably cocked up a lot of things. But I think the current government are taking advantage of that and bringing in these new measures for political reasons to win favour & votes in future elections. The new rules will probably have very little impact on immigration. As with everything else these days it's all about cutting costs and saving money. An example of this is the new proposal to scrap appeals for family visit visa's. They are proposing this because too many appeals are SUCCESSFUL and they claim appeals cost them £40m last year!! This suggests that it is the poor quality embassy staff making incorrect decisions in the first place. If this was corrected then there would be no need for so many appeals. There is also no mention of the fact that a fee for appeals is to be introduced soon anyway, which would cover the cost.
    I guess the proposal about couples already living overseas would be most relevant to you and your gf. As it stands any couple that have lived together for four years or more can be granted immediate settlement. Under the new proposals your (wife) would have to go through the 5 year probationary period.

    It's all too easy for the general public and government to blame immigration for the countries economic situation. Just like its (failing)attempts to sort the deficit too quickly, I think the government are jumping on immigration as a distraction from all its other failings to win over the public. After all I think the general public simply don't want immigrants coming here, be that in the back of a lorry or by legal means. Unfortunately I think the government feels the same, no matter how cleverly they word it.