Since July 2012 those wishing to apply to join family in the UK or extend their family visas have had to meet a financial requirement which only allowed evidence of income from the UK based sponsor (for out of country applications) or cash savings from the applicant and/or their partner to be relied upon. Partners applying from within the UK to extend their spouse visas or unmarried partner visas could rely on their own income.
For a partner visa, the Immigration Rules specify that to show the financial requirement is met, a gross annual income of at least £18,600 must be evidenced, or alternatively, that savings of at least £62,500 have been held continuously for six months. If there is a child applying and income is evidenced, an additional £3,800 must be shown plus a further £2,400 for each additional child. If a child applies and savings are being evidenced, the amount to be shown increases to £72,000 and then a further £6,000 per additional child.
Following the decision of the Supreme Court in MM (Lebanon) & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 10, the Home Office have amended the Immigration Rules to allow other sources of income to be relied on by family members to show that the financial requirement is met for their visa applications.
As of 10 August 2017 applicants may show that the financial requirement is met by providing evidence of credible prospective earnings for themselves or their partner, a credible guarantee of sustainable financial support from a third party, or any other credible and reliable source of income or savings. The level of income or savings that must be evidenced has not changed. The Immigration Rules have also become more flexible with regard to how the financial requirement can be evidenced. Applicants will still have to provide the required specified evidence to show that the financial requirement is met but they will only be able to rely on the new rules if it is evident from the information provided in their application that:
1) There are exceptional circumstances which could render refusal of their application a breach of the UK’s obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
2) Such a refusal would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for them, their partner or a child. If applicants can show that they meet this test they will be issued with a visa in a ten-year route to settlement rather than the five-year route. If they can later show that the financial requirement is met as per the original provisions, they may move into the five-year route.
Whilst these new immigration rules appear to allow some flexibility to those applying for family visas from within and outside of the UK, the high threshold of exceptionality and the need to show that there would be unjustifiably harsh consequences if the application was refused mean that utilising them may be difficult and equally undesirable with the reward for success being a visa in a route to settlement which will take twice as long.