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Government propose significant salary threshold increase to cut UK immigration

on Friday, 08 December 2023.

The Home Secretary, James Cleverley, has announced a new five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people coming to the UK legally.

The Government claims that its new measures, announced on 4 December 2023, will reduce the number of people coming to the UK each year by around 300,000 people. The five-point plan mainly targets economic migration - people coming to the UK to fill skilled and shortage jobs - by significantly increasing the salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa category and prohibiting sponsored health and care workers from bringing family members with them to the UK.

The changes are due to take effect in Spring 2024, although a specific date has not yet been announced.

The five-point plan                                              

  • Increase the Skilled Worker minimum salary threshold: the minimum salary required to sponsor someone under this important immigration category is set to increase by nearly 50%, from £26,200 to £38,700. The lower salary threshold will still continue to apply to Health and Care Workers and others on 'national salary scales', including teachers.
  • Reform the Shortage Occupation List: the Shortage Occupation List, which features jobs that have been independently assessed as being in short supply and allows employers to pay a salary of 80% of the usual threshold, will be reviewed and reformed. The 20% salary discount will be scrapped and will be replaced by a new 'salary list' with a much smaller number of occupations identified which are permitted to be paid a lower salary.
  • Ban dependants of Health and Care workers: workers coming to the UK under the Health and Care Visa scheme will not be able to bring family dependents to the UK. In addition, care firms that want to sponsor people to come to the UK will need to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
  • Raise the minimum salary requirement for a spouse/partner visas: the minimum income requirement for British citizens who wish to bring their partners to the UK will increase from £18,600 to £38,700.
  • Review Graduate visas: the Government will ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the Graduate Route to 'ensure it works in the best interests of the UK and to ensure steps are being taken to prevent abuse'.

What about migrants already in the UK?

There is still a lot of detail that is missing from these proposals, such as whether the current concessions for graduates and new entrants to the labour market will continue to apply. It is expected that transitional measures will be introduced to protect the position of migrants who are already in the UK, although the level of protection offered by such transitional provisions is also uncertain. What is certain though is that these changes will affect thousands of people who are either in the UK already or planning to come here, some of whom will no longer qualify once these changes come into force.

It is expected that further details of how these new measures will apply will be announced between now and them coming into force in Spring 2024.

What can employers do for now?

The announcement to increase the salary threshold comes just over a month before significant increases to the Immigration Health Surcharge - as we reported previously - are expected to come into force. Employers who are contemplating sponsoring employee visa applications are therefore likely to want to ensure that applications are submitted sooner rather than later to avoid these changes and higher fees.

Employers should also consider their recruitment plans for the year ahead to consider whether to bring forward the sponsorship of prospective sponsored workers who qualify under the current rules but will no longer meet the requirements when the increased salary threshold comes into force.

For further information about how these changes might impact your business please contact Nishil Patel in our Immigration team on 07384 813073, or complete the form below.

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