In this article, John Vassiliou, Senior Associate in our employment team, comments on several changes to the Skilled Worker visa route announced on 9 March 2023, which sponsor licence holders will need to be aware of moving forward.
Minimum Salary Increases
Sponsor licence holders need to be aware of some upcoming tweaks to the Skilled Worker visa route announced on 9 March 2023. In line with an imminent increase to the National Living Wage, the Home Office has announced an increase to Skilled Worker visa salary thresholds from 12 April 2023.
The minimum gross annual salary threshold for most applications is increasing by £600 from £25,600 to £26,200, and the minimum hourly rate is increasing from £10.10 per hour to £10.75 per hour.
This change will potentially affect a number of sponsored roles in sectors such as hospitality, where salaries often straddle the minimum threshold.
The discounted minimum gross annual salary for eligible PhD-qualified occupations is increasing from £23,040 to £23,580.
The discounted minimum gross annual salary for shortage occupation list roles, certain STEM roles, new entrants, and certain healthcare roles is increasing from £20,480 to £20,960.
Changes to Going Rates
New going rates for individual occupations have been announced. These can be found at page 39 of the 9 March 2023 Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. Going rates will now be based on a 37.5-hour working week rather than a 39-hour working week. This is an important consideration where employees are contracted for longer weekly working hours, as proposed salaries will need to be pro-rated in order to calculate eligibility for sponsorship.
When do the changes take effect?
The above salary and going rate changes will only apply to visa applications made using a certificate of sponsorship issued on or after 12 April 2023. For any applications made using a certificate of sponsorship issued before 12 April 2023, the application will still be decided in accordance with the Immigration Rules in force on 11 April 2023.
Do the changes affect existing sponsored workers?
Employers of existing sponsored workers need not worry: there is no immediate requirement to take action from an immigration perspective. It's only when it comes to a worker's next visa extension or settlement stage that employers will need to ensure salaries align with the new mandatory minimums.
Clarification on Salary Calculation for Irregular Working Patterns
For roles where there are irregular working patterns differing week by week and resulting in uneven pay, the Home Office has now published rules on how salary is to be calculated:
“(a) work in excess of 48 hours in some weeks can be considered towards the salary thresholds, providing the average over a regular cycle (which can be less than, but not more than, 17 weeks) is not more than 48 hours a week; and
(b) any unpaid rest weeks will count towards the average when considering whether the salary thresholds are met; and
(c) any unpaid rest weeks will not count as absences from employment for the purpose of paragraph 9.30.1 in Part 9 of these rules.
For example, an applicant who works a pattern of 60 hours a week for £12 per hour for two weeks, followed by an unpaid rest week, will be considered to work 40 hours a week on average and have a salary of £24,960 (£12 x 40 x 52) per year.”
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.