First of all, in this case a spouse is Australian and could probably apply or an Ancestral visa instead because her grandfather was most likely born in the UK. This is a visa for 5 years (instead of 2.5 x 2.5 years in case of a Spouse visa) and has no income requirement like £18,600. It allows to work in the UK, it is cheaper (only 1 application and then permanent residency, no extension is usually needed) and it leads to permanent residency after 5 years in the Ancestral category. It may not solve a problem of the wife being able to train as a midwife but it is a cheaper and easier alternative.
Furthermore, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians (and some others but these nationals are very common in UK-foreign marriages) can apply for a working holiday visa, called Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme). This is a visa for 2 years, which allows to work in the UK. It is only available to those aged 30 and under with no dependent children but it is used a lot, particularly as a route to switch to a Spouse visa once in the UK. The £18,600 Financial Requirement is not always based on the British partner’s income. If a foreign spouse has a UK visa which allows to work, such as a Tier 5 or Tier 4 student visa or Tier 2 work visa, they can use their income alone to meet the Financial Requirement. Or can combine with the British partner’s, subject to the rules on such combinations.
Lastly, the income threshold of £18,600 (which can also be met through pension, rental income, scholarship etc) is reasonable to support a foreign spouse for a while, particularly in London. And once the spouse is here, at the next stage it can be a combination of both spouses’ incomes, so 2 people working full-time on a UK minimum wage would comfortably meet the visa requirement for a visa extension, switching from another category or Indefinite Leave. Those on disability benefits are exempt, so there is no discrimination against people who aren’t fit to work. And those who have particularly compassionate circumstances can try to apply under exception (not to be confused with exemption) in the alternative 10-year route, which allows to waive most of the requirements, including Financial Requirement, English and even the immigration status.
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