February 7, 2024
As explained in our update of 7 December 2023, the Home Office has announced a number of unprecedented changes to the Immigration Rules concerning the sponsored Skilled Worker route and family migration, as part of the Government’s plan to reduce net migration to the UK.
Further details on the policy proposals were published on 21 December 2023, set out in a ‘fact sheet’ which can be accessed here.
Recent ministerial announcements have included further detail on transitional measures, along with a clearer timetable for the introduction of a number of the reforms.
Increases to Skilled Worker route salary thresholds
The general salary threshold to be sponsored for a Skilled Worker visa will rise from £26,200 to £38,700 and this will be introduced from 4 April 2024.
In addition, ‘going rates’ for each recognised occupation will be increased. In other words, companies will only be able to sponsor individuals whose salaries exceed the 50th percentile for that particular occupation (the going rate is currently at the 25th percentile). The rates are based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.
For occupations where the going rates, even at the 50th percentile, are below the overall threshold of £38,700 the change is largely irrelevant. The reliance on the 50th percentile is more likely to be relevant to higher paid roles, that are paid beyond £38,700 and for which the occupation rate will take precedence.
It has been confirmed that those already on the Skilled Worker route before the changes take place will be exempt from the new salary thresholds when they change sponsor, extend their permission, or apply to settle in the UK. However, the Government has confirmed that they expect Skilled Workers’ pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers. Therefore, Skilled Workers would be subject to updated per occupation rates set at the 25th percentile using the latest pay data when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle.
Those switching to Skilled Worker visas from other routes after the changes will not be entitled to these exemptions.
The fact sheet confirms that there will be an exemption from the salary rises for those on the Health and Social Care Visa route. They will not be required to meet the £38,700 salary threshold applied to Skilled Workers more generally. Education workers and others on national pay-scales will also be exempt from this requirement.
It has been confirmed that new-entrant carers and senior carers will be prohibited from bringing their dependants to the UK from 11 March 2024.
As ever, the devil will be in the detail, and we expect the published Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules to contain the legal provisions that will dictate transitional rules.
Shortage Occupation List
The fact sheet confirms that the Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) will replace the Shortage Occupation List, with an “Immigration Salary List”. As part of this process, the 20% ‘discount’ applied to the going rate for shortage occupations will be removed. However, a discounted general threshold will be applied to certain occupations on the new list, though it is not yet clear what that discount will be. Some commentators have mooted a figure of 80% of the general threshold, which is still a substantial increase from the current position.
It is expected that these changes will be introduced on 4 April 2024, as changes to the general salary thresholds are implemented.
Income requirement for the family route
The minimum income requirement for a family visa will now be increased incrementally from £18,600 to £38,700. The first stage will be introduced on 11 April 2024, when the threshold will be increased to £29,000. The threshold will later be increased to £34,500 and finally to £38,700 in early 2025. The precise timescales for these further changes remain unclear.
£29,000 is still a significant increase for many families and much uncertainty remains around when the further increases to £34,500 and subsequently £38,700 will be introduced.
Changes to the Graduate visa route
The MAC will also review the Graduate visa route in the coming weeks. It is unclear what this review will entail or when it will be complete, but we can assume it will be available in late 2024. We can also assume that it will predominantly affect the ability of Graduates to bring their dependants to the UK.
We suggest that employers concerned by any of these changes should review timelines and recruitment plans, to assess whether sponsorship can be brought forward before the Immigration Rules change. Families who are concerned by meeting the new financial thresholds should also look into bringing forward any relocation plans.
If you are an employer or an individual with queries related to these changes then please contact our Immigration Team.
We will provide updates on new information as we receive it.