Various changes to the UK's Immigration Rules have come into force from 12 April 2023, including changes to the Skilled Worker route minimum salary requirements and how sponsors calculate salaries.
On 9 March 2023 the Government laid before Parliament details of forthcoming changes to the immigration rules affecting various existing immigration categories, and introducing some new ones.
Employers registered with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as sponsors of workers under the Skilled Worker and/or Global Business Mobility routes, will be interested to learn that the salary thresholds and going rates for qualifying occupations have been updated in line with the latest UK salary data. In relation to the specified minimum salaries for each qualifying occupation, it is also worth noting that, where previously the going rates for most occupations were based on a 39-hour working week, the updated salaries are now based on a 37.5 hour working week. Sponsors will note that while some occupations will require a higher minimum salary, others have reduced, either as a result of the revision to the weekly working hours, or because the UK salary data shows that median salaries in that occupation have actually fallen.
In addition to ensuring that the salary offered to sponsored workers exceeds the going rate for the specific occupation, under the Skilled Worker rules sponsors must ensure that the salary exceeds other thresholds as well, which will be updated as follows:
Where an individual is applying in circumstances where the salary can be discounted because the role is on the Shortage Occupation list, the worker meets the definition in the Immigration Rules of a 'new entrant', or the role is in a specified health or education sector occupation, then the minimum salary is increasing from £20,480 to £20,960 (or the rate for the occupation, whichever is higher).
The minimum salary which must be paid where no discounts apply is being increased from £25,600 to £26,200 (or the rate for the occupation, whichever is higher).
The minimum hourly rate which any Skilled Worker can receive is increasing from £10.10 to £10.75 per hour.
The minimum salary required under the Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist Worker route is increasing from £42,400 to £45,800.
In addition, a requirement has been introduced that confirms that all sponsored work must comply with the National Minimum Wage and Working Time Regulations. Therefore, while the above changes primarily relate to new sponsored workers, employers should ensure that the salaries paid to existing sponsored workers continue to be at least equivalent to the national minimum wage.
The rule changes also introduce a clarification as to how salaries are considered where an applicant is working a pattern where the regular hours are not the same each week:
Ordinarily a sponsored worker contracted to work more than 48 hours per week will not have their salary for hours worked beyond 48 hours taken into account, but for workers with irregular work patterns, work in excess of 48 hours in some weeks can be considered towards the salary thresholds, providing the average hours over a regular cycle (which can be less than, but not more than, 17 weeks) is not more than 48 hours a week.
Any unpaid rest weeks will count towards the average when considering whether the salary thresholds are met.
Any unpaid rest weeks will not count as absences from employment for the purpose of determining whether a sponsored worker has had prohibited unpaid absences from work.
Further Immigration Rule Changes
In addition to the salary changes to the sponsored work routes, the following immigration rule changes may be of interest to employers:
An Innovator Founder route has been introduced to replace the existing innovator category, while the Start-Up route is also being withdrawn
The scope of the Youth Mobility Scheme has been expanded for citizens of New Zealand to reflect the enhanced bilateral arrangement between the UK and New Zealand: the upper age limit for acceptance onto the scheme is being extended to 35, and the length of visas being issued will increase from two years to three years.
The minimum rate of pay for the Seasonal Worker route is being increased to reflect changes to the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage.
The rules which will govern the arrangements for the forthcoming Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA) have also been introduced. Once fully implemented, ETAs will be required by all third country nationals (ie not British or Irish citizens) who are visiting the UK and do not currently need visas for short stays (eg citizens of the US, Australia, Japan and EEA countries). Initially, the ETA scheme will just apply to Qatari nationals entering the UK from 15 November 2023, to be expanded further in early 2024, with further expansion beyond that.
Should you require any further information about any of the above changes, please contact Tom Brett Young in our Immigration team on 0121 227 3759. Alternatively, please complete the form below.