Further Clarification on the U.K. Government’s “Five-Point Immigration Plan”
Following the U.K. Government’s announcement on 4 December 2023 of plans to reduce legal migration by 300,000, there has been some much-needed clarification on how these new measures will operate.
This article should help clear some of the confusion surrounding the proposed changes, especially regarding how the minimum salary threshold will operate and when it will be implemented.
Our initial article posted when these measure were first introduced can be read here.
1. Health and Care Visa Workers bringing dependants to the U.K.
Care workers and senior care workers who are already in the U.K. prior to the change in rules will still be able to bring their dependants to the U.K. This new measure will only impact new workers coming into the country through the Health and Care Visa route. It was also confirmed that individuals coming to the U.K. on the Health and Social Care visa route will be exempt from the new salary thresholds discussed below.
2. Skilled Worker Visa minimum salary thresholds
One key question regarding the new salary thresholds announced in December was when they would come into effect. The Government have confirmed that the threshold will rise to £38,700 in Spring 2024. The ‘going rates’ for each occupation will also increase in line with the median full-time salaries for skilled jobs.
That being said, individuals who are already in the U.K. on the Skilled Worker visa route will not be subject to the £38,700 threshold when they change employment, extend their stay or settle in the U.K. However, the government has said they would expect their pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers and would be subject to the updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data when they make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle. Health and Social Care workers as well as education workers on national pay-scale occupations will also be exempted from the new median salary levels.
3. ‘Shortage Occupation List’ salary discount
The Shortage Occupation List is set to be replaced by the Immigration Salary List. Whilst the Government stated back in December that they would be ending the salary discount for ‘Shortage Occupation’ roles, it has been confirmed that the discounts will remain in place until the new salary thresholds are introduced. Therefore, it is anticipated that the discount will cease around April this year. Some may question the need of retaining of such list altogether.
4. Family and Spouse Visa salary threshold
In December the Home Office proposed increasing the minimum income level for family visas from £18,600 to £38,700 per annum in spring 2024, in line with the new minimum general salary threshold for Skilled Workers. The Government have now modified this somewhat and confirmed this increase will also be introduced in stages. The minimum threshold will be increased to £29,000 initially and will eventually reach £38,700, but we do not yet have a timetable for these increases.
The good news is that the Home Office will remove the additional income requirements for children included in applications made under the family route. This is to ensure that British nationals are not treated less favourably than migrants.
As with the Skilled Worker salary thresholds, individuals who are already in the U.K. via this route (or as a fianc(é)e), or who made their application before the new rules are implemented, will not be subject to the new thresholds. However, individuals in the U.K. who wish to switch to this route will be subject to the minimum income requirements if the new rules are in place when they make the switch. This will also be the case for children seeking to join or accompany parents.
5. Migration Advisory Committee to review the graduate route
There has been no further clarification in regard to the graduate route. We will be monitoring for any update announcements from the Home Office.
Immigration Health Surcharge fees increase
It was initially anticipated that this increase was due to take effect on 16 January. However, it now appears that the increase will come into force by 6 February 2024.
The increase in fees was debated by Government on 10 January and further clarity should be brought from that debate. However, it is anticipated that the increase will be as follows:
- From £624 per year per adult to £1,035 per year.
- From £470 per year per child to £776 per year.
Until the Immigration Rules are amended, the current thresholds and policies remain in place. We strongly suggest that organisations check with their recruitment team and make any relevant applications as soon as possible in case of sponsoring Skilled Workers.
How We Can Help
Whilst these recent clarifications have answered some common questions following the December announcement, there is still uncertainty on how these changes will operate in practice. The Armstrong Teasdale U.K. Immigration team are well equipped and ready to provide further guidance to help organisations adhere to the ever-changing immigration law climate. Please contact your usual AT lawyer or one of the authors from our U.K. Immigration team.
Disclaimer: This publication is provided by Armstrong Teasdale Limited for informational purposes only. The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice. Any questions regarding the matters discussed in this publication can be directed to Armstrong Teasdale’s U.K. immigration team.