"They failed to consult anyone on their new proposals"
The UK Home Office has announced a U-turn on its plan to raise the minimum salary threshold for those bringing foreign family members to the UK.
On December 4, 2023, Home Secretary James Cleverly said from Spring 2024, most foreign workers would need to earn at least £38,700 to qualify for a UK skilled worker visa.
He added this same threshold would apply to the visa route that British or Irish citizens, or those settled in the UK, can use to bring their family members to the UK.
The threshold will now be initially raised to £29,000 instead of £38,700.
The revised proposal was announced unexpectedly and the threshold will eventually hit £38,700.
Opposition parties condemned the sudden policy change, with Labour saying the policy was in “chaos”.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said:
“This is more evidence of Tory government chaos on immigration and the economy.
“On their watch, net migration has trebled as skills shortages have got worse and worse, and they still have no proper plan to link the immigration system to training or workforce planning.
“They failed to consult anyone on their new proposals and took no account of the impact of steep spousal visa changes on families next year, so it’s no surprise they are now rowing back in a rush.”
Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat’s home affairs spokesperson, 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 backbenchers.
“James Cleverly needs to put down the spade and stop digging. Decisions like this should be made by experts and politicians working together.”
The £29,000 remains above the average UK salary and is still higher than the previous £18,600.
Under the £18,600 threshold, 75% of people could afford to have family members join them.
If the salary threshold was £38,700, just 40% would be able to afford it, and only 25% in the north-east of England.
With family visas forming a small proportion of overall legal migration, the original change was expected to contribute only about 10,000 to an overall planned reduction of 300,000 in annual migration numbers.
Reunite Families, a campaign group for people affected by immigration rules, responded to the announcement:
“It is incredibly upsetting and outright disrespectful that the government has released these details four days before Christmas, nearly three weeks since they were first announced.
“£29,000 is still very high for most families – it excludes over half of the population from sponsoring a foreign spouse and is much higher than the minimum wage so those on lower salaries are still being told their family is not welcome here.
“It’s baffling why the MIR [minimum income requirement] is now going to be raised incrementally – the process is already complicated enough without this too.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the £38,700 introduction will be in early 2025.