26 March 2024
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UK Immigration Update: Latest changes and what they mean for employers

To The Point
(3 min read)

2024 is looking to be a busy year for immigration law. A number of immigration changes have already been implemented and more changes are due in the coming months. In this article, we outline the key issues that employers and sponsors should know.

(1)    Increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge

From 6 February 2024, we saw the Immigration Health Surcharge increase by 66%. Most Skilled Worker visa applications are now subject to a surcharge of £1,035 per year of sponsorship (up from £624 per year). For a five-year Skilled Worker visa, this is an increase from £3,120 to £5,175.

(2)    Removal of the Shortage Occupation List

With an announcement in December 2023 that the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) was to be removed and replaced with the Immigration Salary List (ISL), the Migration Advisory Committee undertook a rapid review of the proposed replacement. The review has now been published with the following headline points:

  • Jobs on the ISL have a general threshold of £30,960 per year. The going rate will be in the 50th percentile and, unlike the SOL, no going rate discount will be applicable.
  • 23 occupations have been included on the ISL, including 'Laboratory Technicians (3111)', 'Bricklayers (5313)' and 'Roofers, Roof Tilers and Slaters (5314)'. This will represent roughly 8% of the eligible Skilled Worker roles, whereas currently those occupations on the SOL represent 30% of the eligible roles.

(3)    Significant Increase to Skilled Worker Salary Thresholds

Currently, to be sponsored as a Skilled Worker, an individual's salary must be equal to or above:

  • the general threshold (£26,200 per year);
  • £10.75 per hour; and
  • the 'going rate' for the type of job.

In December 2023, it was announced that the general salary threshold would be increasing to £38,700 per year. This change comes into effect from 4 April 2024.
Alongside this change, the going rates associated with the eligible roles will also be increasing. The going rate will increase as below:

  • for new Skilled Workers – the going rate will increase from the 25th percentile to the median (i.e., 50th percentile), using earnings data from 2023; and
  • for existing Skilled Workers (i.e., those on a Skilled Worker visa prior to the changes being implemented in April 2024) – the going rate will continue to be set at the 25th percentile, with the changes to the going rate coming into effect only when the individual changes sponsor, extends their visa or settles. Small salary increases are, however, still expected, as the 25th percentile will be based on the 2023 data.

There was much debate as to whether there would be new entrant provisions helping those at the start of their careers. It has now been confirmed that new entrant provisions will remain roughly as they currently are, however, the salary required to be met after 4 April 2024 for these individuals will be increased to £30,960 or 70% of the going rate for that role.

Transitional arrangements have also been released for those who are currently under the Skilled Worker category, but do not need to apply to renew their visa until after 4 April 2024. For individuals who have a certificate of sponsorship assigned after 4 April 2024, they will need to meet a general threshold of £29,000.

(4)    Other Key Changes

  • Permitted activities for Visitors – from 31 January 2024, employees of overseas companies who arrive in the UK on the Visitor route are permitted to attend remote meetings whilst in the UK and work remotely in the UK as part of their overseas employment, provided this does not amount to a secondment to a UK branch or company and these activities are not the main purpose of the visit.
  • Health and Care Workers – from 11 March 2024, individuals on Health and Care Worker Visas under specified SOC codes are no longer be permitted to bring dependants to the UK. This applies to all new Health and Care Workers under SOC codes 6145 and 6146 and does not impact those who were on the Health and Care Worker route prior to 11 March 2024.
  • Family Visas – the minimum income requirement for partners applying under this route will increase from £18,600 to £29,000 from 11 April 2024. Whilst still a substantial increase, this is significantly lower than the anticipated figure of £38,700.
  • Global Business Mobility– the salary threshold for the Senior or Specialist Worker and UK Expansion Worker routes will increase from £45,800 to £48,500.

Contributors to this article were Marianne Hessey and Lauren Burch

To the Point 

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