New Year, New Rules

illustration diverse immigration group

On Monday 04 December 2023, UK Home Secretary revealed plans to reduce Immigration level to the United Kingdom, stating that his plan will ‘deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration’.

These planned measures are set to affect both businesses and individuals in the new year and follow on from October’s increase of Visa Application fees, and the increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge set to rise from £624.00 to £1,035.00 in January 2024.

Skilled Worker- minimum annual salary threshold

Currently, the minimum threshold for a skilled worker is £26,200.00 subject to the job role and working hours. From Spring of 2024, this threshold is set to increase to £37,800.00 which is almost 50% higher. 

In accordance with the proposals (which do not affect health and care workers – but note that these are affected by other proposals in relation to dependants), the minimum annual salary threshold increase surpasses the existing average income for full-time employees in the UK, which is currently £34,963.

The government’s position is that by increasing the base annual salary this will encourage employers to prioritise British talent and tackle reliance on migrant workers.  

We understand that the salary threshold will not impact those currently working in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa and who earn below £38,700. However, we await further detailed guidance from the government in relation to the impact of these proposals on migrant workers looking to extend their existing Skilled Worker visas, after the changes have come into force.

Removal of Salary Discount for Shortage Occupation List

Currently, jobs on the shortage occupation list can be paid at 80% of the standard going rate for the role. At present, the occupations on the list are predominantly in either the healthcare, teaching, construction and engineering sectors, and are considered by the government to be subject to a skills shortage. The aim of the discount is to help employers to recruit migrants into roles where there is a clear shortage of workers in the UK to fill the positions, by reducing the minimum salary that needs to be paid. 

The government have stated that they will end the 20% discount applied to the going rate of those working in roles on the shortage occupation list, and that this will be replaced with a new salary list which will have a general threshold discount, the amount of which is yet to be unveiled. 

Reduction of Dependants and Family visas

In further efforts to reduce immigration, the government will prevent those on the Health and Care Worker visa from bringing their dependants to live with them in the UK. The Health and Care Visa will also now require the sponsored role to be that of activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission. 

International students who are not studying post-graduate degrees, will be unable to bring their families with them to the United Kingdom. It is important to note that there has been no mention of such ban on the dependants of those on the Skilled Worker or Global Motility Route. 

Those joining their family members under Appendix FM will also be significantly impacted by the Spring 2024 measures. The current minimum income threshold is £18,600.00, which is being increased to £38,700.00, imposing stringent measures on many British Citizens or settled individuals in the UK, who are wishing to sponsor and live with their family members. 

Graduate Route

The Migration Advisory Committee will be asked to review the Graduate visa, which since its introduction in 2021, has allowed international graduates to remain in the UK for a further 2 years upon completion of their studies. The government has asked the review in line with their hopes to minimise the abuse of this route and for it to work in the best interests of the UK. 

Health Surcharge

Those applying for Skilled Worker visas, and their dependants, are required to pay a one-off Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for each year of their visa. This payment grants them access to NHS services throughout the duration of their time in the UK.

The IHS is set to increase by 66% from £624 to £1,035, which will significantly increase the upfront costs of applying for a Skilled Worker visa.

This particular change is time sensitive as the revised surcharge is scheduled to take effect on 16 January 2024. Therefore, applicants should consider submitting their visa applications before the changes are expected to take effect to avoid the substantial increase in costs.   Sponsors should keep the increased costs in mind when considering whether to offer reimbursement of the costs as part of the remuneration package being offered to migrant workers. 

Conclusion

The proposed changes are likely to have come as a surprise to many employers, especially those who rely heavily on foreign migrants. As a firm we understand that these changes will impact many of our clients and future clients wishing to start up, grow their business in the United Kingdom, as the government set the ball in motion to reduce the number of immigrants entering the country. We endeavour to continue to monitor these changes and update our clients with the clear advice that they need, in times of great uncertainty. 


More information

How MGB can assist

If you have any further queries in relation to the above article and would like to speak to the property team at MGB, please do not hesitate to contact us and we would be happy to assist.

We can be reached by email at email@mgb.law or by telephone at +44 (0) 20 7499 0620.

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