The Home Office released a list of changes to a number of visa categories on March 9, 2023.

The most significant changes are outlined below, but you can view the complete government explanatory note here.

Minimum salary changes for skilled worker visas

The minimal annual salary threshold for the skilled worker visa has been raised from the previous range, which was as follows:

  1. £25,600 to £26,200 (general salary threshold);
  2. £23,040 to £23,580 (PhD qualified occupations); and
  3. £20,480 to £20,960 (for those under 26, studying or a recent graduate).

Additionally, the minimal hourly wage is rising from £10.10 to £10.75, and the salaries for each sponsored position have also changed. Therefore, it is essential to consider these three aspects and make sure that the salary satisfies or surpasses each of them.

The changes are being made in accordance with the latest UK salary data, including the pending changes to the National Minimum Wage.

Please remember to take this into account when making recruitment plans as the new salary thresholds for sponsorship will take effect for employees given a Certificate of Sponsorship on or after 12 April 2023.

Employers who currently have sponsored employees do not need to raise their salaries in order to meet these new thresholds, with the exception of making sure the National Minimum Wage is being paid.

Changes to salary requirement – Global Business Mobility Routes

The salary criteria for the Global Business Mobility Routes have also changed:

  1. £42,400 to £45,800 (Senior or Specialist Worker route);
  2. £23,100 to £24,220 (Graduate Trainee); and
  3. £33,000 to £34,600 (Scale-up Worker route).

New Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme

The new Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme ("ETA") is a digital pre-travel authorisation scheme being implemented globally, for non-British or non-Irish citizens traveling to or through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays.

The ETA's goal is to make travel for eligible guests easier and faster while enabling thorough security checks to be carried out before departure. In order to carry out necessary security checks, applicants will be required to provide biometric data and respond to eligibility questions. Following the application's submission, decisions will be made in three working days at the latest.

The ETA will be implemented gradually, starting initially to Qatari nationals from October 25 2023 (for travel from November 15 2023), and then beginning on February 1 2023, for the following countries (for travel from February 22 2023):

  1. Jordan
  2. Bahrain
  3. Kuwait
  4. Oman
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. United Arab Emirates

Further countries are anticipated to be added in due course.

An ETA is valid for two years from the date it was issued or until the holder's passport expires. (whichever is earlier).

Business travellers who previously may not have required a visiting visa for the UK will now need to take this into account and obtain an ETA before departing for the UK.

New Innovator Founder route

The Innovator route and the Start-Up route will be replaced starting on April 13, 2023, by a new Innovator Founder visa route.

Those who want to start a company in the UK based on an innovative idea they either developed or significantly contributed to, will be applicable for the Innovator Founder visa. It reimagines and replaces the Innovator and Start-Up visa routes, with the intention that there will be more flexibility for those who have genuine business plans and sufficient funds to deliver them. The following changes will make the revised route less constricting:

  1. There will no requirement to have a minimum of £50,000 funding for the business; and
  2. Visa holders will be permitted to engage in skilled employment outside of running their business (work of at least RQF level 3).

The Innovator Founder visa will allow for extensions (something the Start-Up visa did not allow for), and the route leads to residency within three years.

It was anticipated that the new Innovator Founder visa would also enable investors to apply for the visa, however this is not possible. It is only open to those with the business idea.

Given the foregoing, the Start-Up visa will no longer be required starting on April 13, 2023, with the exception of applications involving endorsements given before that date.

Ward Hadaway's immigration team work in partnership with a range of organisations to secure a range of visas, dependent on each individual circumstance. If you have any questions about the topics raised in this article, please contact one of their specialist immigration lawyers.

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.