Further information on ‘legal migration’ changes

5 min read 04/01/2024

On December 4, 2023, the UK government unveiled a set of measures aimed at reducing net migration. Read the TL;DR version here.

The initiative, coupled with measures to limit student dependents, is anticipated to result in approximately 300,000 individuals who would have qualified to enter the UK under last years rules being ineligible.

Various migration routes such as family visa applications, Skilled Worker visa applications, and overseas care workers entering the UK through the Health and Care Worker route will see considerable changes being implemented in stages throughout 2024.

The Home Office has now published and official statement in which they have provided additional details on the impending changes. The statement aims to offer enhanced clarity for employers and migrants currently in the UK on routes that will be affected by the upcoming changes.

It is important to keep in mind that existing thresholds and policies will remain in effect whilst the immigration rules are amended.

Carers and senior carers – these changes will be introduced as soon as possible in the new year

The Home Office has issued the following clarifications for care workers and their employers:

  1. Care workers (SOC code 6145) and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) already in the UK under the Health and Care Worker route will be permitted to stay with their dependant family members. This includes extensions, changing employers (within these SOC codes), and settlement.
  2. If a care worker or senior care worker is in the route before the Immigration Rules change but has not yet brought dependants, they will be allowed to bring dependants during their sponsorship on this visa.
  3. Individuals in the UK on any other route, even if that route allows dependants, who switch into the Health and Care Worker visa as a care worker or senior care worker after this date, will not be able to stay with or bring over dependants.
  4. Care providers sponsoring workers exclusively engaged in non-regulated activities (and thus not required to be registered with the CQC) before the rule change should continue to sponsor these workers, including extending their visa on those terms, but cannot hire new ones.

The anticipated changes to the rules for Care Workers and Senior Care Workers are expected to be implemented as soon as possible in 2024.

Salary thresholds for Skilled Worker

New applicants under the Skilled Worker route will see an almost 50% increase in the salary threshold from its current rate of £26,200 to £38,700. The government hopes that this will dissuade excessive dependence on overseas labor by employers while fostering an environment that encourages businesses to prioritise investments in their workforce and seek British talent as a primary choice.

Further details on these changes release by the Home Office are as follows:

  1. Those already in the Skilled Worker route before the Immigration Rules changes should be exempt from the new median salary levels when they change sponsor, extend, or settle.  We would, however, expect their pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers; therefore, they would be subject to the updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle. This is in line with normal practice.

These changes will be are expected to be introduced in  April 2024.

Immigration Salary List (ISL)

One of the changes announced during the December 4th announcment was scrapping the 20% salary reduction for jobs on the shortage occupation list. 

Further details on this changes release by the Home Office is as follows:

  1. The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will be renamed the Immigration Salary List and the MAC will advise on which of the current SOL occupations should remain on the list in line with the new salary thresholds.
  2. The current SOL will remain in place until the new salary thresholds are put in place in late Spring.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will be commissioned to carry out this work in January 2024.

Family migration minimum income

Arguably, one of the biggest changes announced was under the family migration route. The goverment intends to increase the minimum income requirement by more than double, rising to £38,700 from the current £18,600 [the only increase since its introduction in 2012].

The increase is expected to come in stages as follows:

  1. £29,000 in Spring 2024
  2. £34,500 [date to be announced]
  3. £38,7000 [date to be announced]

The changes would also see the scrapping of the separate child element. This change ensures that British citizens are not subject to less favourable conditions compared to migrants obligated to meet the General Skilled Worker threshold at a flat rate, irrespective of whether they are sponsoring children. 

Further details on these changes release by the Home Office are as follows:

  1. Those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold. This will also be the case for children seeking to join or accompany parents.
  2. Anyone granted a fianc(é)e visa before the minimum income threshold is raised will also be assessed against the current income requirement when they apply for a family visa within the five-year partner route.
  3. Those already in the UK on a different route who apply to switch into the five-year partner route, after the minimum income requirement has been increased, will be subject to the new income requirement.
Graduate route review

In addition to assessing shortage occupations, the Migration Advisory Committee will also be tasked with examining the Graduate route to ascertain that measures are in place to deter any potential abuse.

  1. We will be asking the MAC in January 2024 to review the Graduate route to prevent abuse, protect the integrity and quality of UK higher education and ensure it works in the best interests of the UK.

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