London Bridge
File photo: People reflected in a building glass, walk on the Southbank of the River Thames, with London Bridge on the background, central London. Image Credit: AFP

London: The UK on Thursday increased the income required to sponsor someone coming to the country on a family visa as part of the government's plan to cut immigration.

From Thursday, the minimum income requirement needed to bring a family member to the UK will go up to £29,000 ($36,800) from £18,600, rising to £38,700 early next year.

The move forms part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's plan to "cut unsustainable and unfair levels of migration, and ensure those arriving here do not burden the taxpayer".

Key election issue

Immigration, at record levels in recent years, is likely to be a key issue in a general election due later in 2024, with polling showing that Sunak's Conservatives are due for a heavy defeat.

"We have reached a tipping point with mass migration. There is no simple solution or easy decision which cuts numbers to levels acceptable to the British people," interior minister James Cleverly said.

"We've acted to cut unsustainable numbers, to protect British workers and their wages, to ensure those bringing family to the UK do not burden taxpayers," he added.

Ensuring families are self-sufficient

The income requirement is designed to ensure families are self-sufficient and can be met in a number of ways, including through savings and via income from employment.

The government unveiled a raft of measures in December aimed at cracking down on the record migration levels, including a 47 per cent hike in the minimum salary for skilled work visas.

The government intends to ultimately synchronise the threshold for family visas with that of skilled work visas.

Tightened regulations for students and a 66 per cent increase in the health surcharge for foreigners using the National Health Service (NHS) were also part of the broader immigration strategy.

Cleverly said at the time that the overall plan was to reduce annual net migration to the UK, currently running at 745,000, by 300,000.

Key measures
■ Ending the ability of nearly all students to bring dependants to the UK.

■ Restricting care workers from bringing family members.

■ Requiring care providers to register with the Care Quality Commission if they are sponsoring migrant care workers.

■ Commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a rapid review of the Graduate route for international students.

■ Increasing the minimum salary required for those arriving on the Skilled Worker visa, from £26,200 to £38,700.

■ Replacing the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List.