New Salary Requirements in UK Family Visa Create Hurdles for Lao-British Couples

New Salary Requirements in UK Family Visa Create Hurdles for Lao-British Couples
FILE: this image is used only for representational purpose (photo: Ilya Burdun)

In a recent announcement, the British Government has set a new salary threshold for foreigners applying for a family visa. This move is sending shockwaves through couples across the world looking to tie the knot with their British partners and embark on a life in the United Kingdom. 

According to the UK’s Common Library website, the annual minimum income requirement for a spouse/partner visa is currently GBP 18,600 (USD 23584.15) but will rise to GBP 29,000 (USD 36,770.99) in spring this year and then to around GBP 34,000 (USD 43110.81) in early 2025. 

However, it is worth noting that the new threshold applies exclusively to first-time applicants. Individuals holding an existing family visa within the five-year partner route, as well as those applying before the threshold escalation, are exempt from the heightened income requirement.  Their assessments will continue to be conducted based on the current income criteria.

The rationale behind these changes stems from the British government’s stance on immigration, deeming it “far too high,” as reported on the UK’s Common Library website. A press release from the Home Office suggests that these modifications could have averted the entry of 300,000 individuals into the UK last year. Additionally, prospects for revisions to the new threshold seem to be on the slimmer side.

Lao-British Marriage Registration

To marry a British citizen and relocate to the UK as a Lao individual, the British partner may find themselves responsible for sponsoring a visa to facilitate their Lao spouse’s residence in the UK. The specific requirements and documentation depend on the chosen type of visa.

For legal recognition and the assurance of future rights, it is recommended that the Lao nationals register their marriage within 12 months of the Lao ceremony.

Those in the process can seek support from the British Embassy in Vientiane, which provides affirmations of marital status and, in certain cases, also facilitates marriage or civil partnership ceremonies for British nationals.

For Lao citizens looking to marry partners from the UK, the challenge seems daunting. The stark contrast in economic landscapes becomes glaring when considering the current monthly minimum wage in Laos, which is a meager LAK 1.6 million (USD 83), translating to USD 996 annually. 

However, to meet the heightened threshold in April, a Lao citizen must earn GBP 2416.67 (USD 3066.19) per month and GBP 2,833.33 (USD 3594.83)/month by 2025. 

The current UK Family Visa regulation enables foreigners to join their family members in the UK, such as a spouse, civil partner, fiancé, parent, child, or a relative providing long-term care. Some of these visas also serve as a pathway to “Leave to Remain,” which would grant foreigners permanent residency in the UK.

Yet, the recent changes in the UK’s immigration policies pose challenges not only for Lao citizens but also for any foreigner planning to marry their British half. The economic disparities between nations, now magnified by increased salary thresholds, introduce a new set of challenges. Although designed to transform the British immigration landscape, the spotlight turns to concerns about fairness and inclusivity.