Exemption from the financial requirement

  • You don’t have to meet the income requirement if you're on certain benefits. These are:
    • Disability Living Allowance
    • Severe Disablement Allowance
    • Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit
    • Attendance Allowance
    • Carer’s Allowance
    • Personal Independence Payment
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme;
    • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme
    • Police Injury Pension

  • Sponsors who get one or more of the benefits listed above don’t have to show they earn £18,600 a year, but they do have to prove that they can maintain their partner. There’s no set level for this, but a judge in 2013 said that a couple should show that their income after accommodation costs is more than what they’d get if they were on income support. You need to:
    • Work out your net income (how much you earn minus what you pay in income tax and National Insurance contributions). Then, take away what you pay for housing. The resulting figure (income minus housing) must be more than what an equivalent British family would be eligible for in Income Support
    • So for example, a British couple over 25 could get £146.20 in income support a week, if they were both eligible for benefits. So the sponsor should show that his or her income, after tax and after taking off costs for accommodation, is more than £146.20 per week

'Exceptional circumstances'

  • If you're not on any of these benefits and don't earn £18,600 a year yourself, you can ask to have other sources of income taken into account. However, they will only do this if you can prove that there are "exceptional circumstances" in your case. There is no fixed definition of "exceptional circumstances," but it is a high bar. You need to prove that the human rights of the applicant, the sponsor or a "relevant child" - a child who has a strong connection to the application - would be harmed if the application was refused. Proving this can be complicated, and you should seek legal advice if you're able to - you can try contacting your local Law Centre.

  • Having exceptional circumstances does not exempt you from the financial requirement completely - you still need to show that you meet it, but can use a wider range of sources of income. The types of income you can use if you prove there are exceptional circumstances are:
    • 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
  • In other words, things like financial support from family members or the salary of a job the applicant has been offered in the UK can be included, if the Home Office accepts that they are credible and is convinced that the human rights of the applicant, the sponsor or a relevant child would be harmed by a refusal. As always, it's important to supply as much documentary evidence as possible to back up your other sources of income and your claims regarding exceptional circumstances
  • If you are going to rely on 3rd party support, then the support needs to be in the form of a letter, with full name and address details of the author, including telephone contact details stating that they are willing to be your third party sponsor.  They will need to provide at least 6 months’ worth of payslips and relevant bank statements showing their pay going into their account.  They will also have to provide photo ID. A contract of employment will also help. 

  • You can also apply citing exceptional circumstances if you don't meet some of the other requirements, for example because you can't sit the English test for some reason. To succeed in this type of application, you have to convince the Home Office that a refusal of the visa would cause "unjustifiably harsh" consequences for the applicant, the sponsor or a relevant child.

  • Be aware that if you don't meet all the requirements but are still granted a visa, you will have to wait 10 years before you can apply for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain). This is called the 10-year-route. People who meet all the requirements first time round can apply for settlement after 5 years (the 5-year-route) - but regardless of what route you are on, you will still have to to extend your visa after 30 months in the UK by applying for Further Leave to Remain (FLR (M)). 

If you are applying for FLR(M) and are exempt from meeting the income requirement, or are using a third party's income because of exceptional circumstances, you might be able to apply for a fee waiver. This is for people who cannot afford the Home Office application fee and are applying based on their human rights. We've put together an information pack with details about who is eligible, what evidence to provide and how to apply.