There have been two major changes in the Immigration Rules for family members of British Citizens, people who are settled in the UK and those on humanitarian protection in the recent past. The changes were brought by statement of changes HC667 which took effect from 1st May 2017 and statement of changes HC1078 which took effect from 10th August 2017.  The first change was relating to English Language Requirements for applicants wishing to submit applications as partners of the relevant sponsors mentioned above. The second change was related to the financial requirements under the immigration rules giving opportunity to the applicants to rely on third party support under certain circumstances.

With effect from 1st May 2017, for an initial application for Entry Clearance or further leave to remain in the UK as a spouse of the relevant sponsor, the applicants will deem to have met the English language requirements if they are national of a majority English speaking county, have passed an English language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages with a provider approved by the Secretary of State, or have an academic qualification which is either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD awarded by an educational establishment in the UK; or, if awarded by an educational establishment outside the UK, is deemed by UK NARIC to meet or exceed the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK, and UK NARIC has confirmed that the degree was taught or researched in English to level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages or above.

However, in any subsequent application for further leave to remain in the UK in order to complete 5 years residence and if the applicants are relying on an English language test, they will have to demonstrate that they have passed an English language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages with a provider approved by the Secretary of State. The remaining qualifying criteria is the same as it was before 1st May 2017.

As far as the financial requirements are concerned, the changes which took effect from 10 August 2017 are relating to changes to the consideration of exceptional circumstances under the relevant rules (as a result of the Supreme Court judgment in MM (Lebanon) & Others), and also include changes to specified evidence that an applicant may submit with the application relying on third party support.

This could include a situation where applicant has made an application for Entry Clearance or leave to remain in the UK as a spouse or partner of a qualifying sponsor, and have not met the financial requirements of £18,600 and it is obvious from the evidence provided by the applicant that there are exceptional circumstances and an apprehension could be derived that if this application is refused, it could be regarded as breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, because such refusal could result in unreasonably harsh significances for the applicant, their partner or a relevant child.

Under the situation above, the new immigration rules give directions to the decision makers to consider evidence specified in the new relevant rules. The evidence could be in shape of a credible guarantee of sustainable financial support to the applicant or their partner from a third party, credible prospective earnings from the sustainable employment or self-employment of the applicant or their partner or any other credible and reliable source of income or funds for the applicant or their partner, which is available to them at the date of application or which will become available to them during the period of limited leave applied for.

However, the onus is still on the applicant to satisfy the decision-maker of the authenticity, reliability and consistency of the source of income, financial support or funds relied upon, on the basis of the information and evidence provided, having regard to the aspects or sequence of the evidence listed in the relevant rules introduced by the new changes.

Shahzeb Iqbal is a senior lawyer at 1st Citizen. For legal advice, please book a consultation at this link.