Hot off the press, the Home Secretary has unveiled substantial revisions to the UK Immigration Rules which will profoundly affect most people who wish to migrate to the UK. These changes will likely come into force in Spring 2024. Below, we will summarise the key changes and what these changes will mean to UK residents and employers.
Sponsoring Migrant Workers
The standard salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas will undergo a near 50% increase, rising from £26,200 to £38,700, excluding Health and Care visas. While this adjustment will not impact existing sponsored employees, it will affect any new applications made from 4 April 2024. UK businesses who wish to hire talent from abroad should consider doing this before the new regulations come into force so that they can capitalise on the existing lower salary threshold.
This development poses a considerable challenge for UK employers who are reliant on sponsoring skilled overseas workers. Nursing leaders in the care sector have accused the UK government of ‘cruelty’ and of ‘endangering’ health and social services in the UK.
The 20% standard salary reduction for shortage occupations will be removed and replaced with a new Immigration Salary List, which will set out the general threshold discount.
This change will undoubtedly make it more challenging and costly for UK employers to recruit overseas workers, including those in sectors experiencing shortages. Furthermore, we expect that the shortage occupation list will be reviewed, leading to a reduction in the number of occupations classified as shortage occupations.
Health and Care Visa
The new rules will limit the number of family members that those granted the Health and Care visa will be able to bring to the UK. Our health and social care sectors rely heavily on migrant staff and this shocking change will pose immense difficulty in recruiting care staff from abroad. Consequently, employers must ready themselves for turmoil and extended recruitment durations as these potential migrant workers will not want to move to the UK if they are not able to bring their family members.
Spouse or Partner Visa
The minimum salary for UK citizens who wish to bring their spouse/partner to the UK will increase from £18,600 to £29,000 on 11 April 2024. The minimum income requirement will then increase to around £34,500 likely later in 2024 and finally to around £38,700 by early 2025.
This is such an unprecedented increase. British citizens who want to bring their spouses/ partners to Britain will have to earn almost double the current threshold and it is unclear if the increase applies to those renewing a family visa.
The Government is expected to publish the revised Immigration Rules and policy guidance with further clarification in March 2024.
In the meantime, UK businesses who wish to sponsor overseas workers will need to start putting plans in place to comply with the new rules and ensure that they can still hire skilled and talented migrants from outside the UK.
UK employers must factor these changes into their future recruitment strategies, notably those heavily reliant on non-British/Irish workers earning lower incomes to fulfil their talent requisites.
UK citizens or settled individuals aiming to bring their foreign spouse to the country might find it advantageous to apply before the alterations to the financial requirement takes effect. Nonetheless, it is essential to acknowledge that the financial requirement could still apply during the extension phase.
We anticipate legal challenges will be launched against the UK government’s plans in much the same way that Priti Patel’s draconian plans for migrant boats crossing the channel were challenged in UK courts. But the outcome of these challenges is unknown and so to avoid getting caught out by the changes, employers, fiancés, spouses and sponsors need to plan and act for the future now.