The Government made their intention to reduce net migration in the UK very clear on 4th December 2023, as the Home Secretary set out their five-point plan to reduce net migration. The controversial and substantive changes are due to come into effect in Spring 2024.
What are the changes?
- Increase of the minimum salary threshold for Skilled Workers from £26,200 to £38,700
- Care workers will be exempt from the increase in the minimum salary threshold but will not be permitted to bring dependants to the UK
- Minimum income for a spouse/family visa will rise from £18,600 to £38,700
- The 20% salary discount for shortage occupations to be abolished
- The Migration Advisory Committee will be commissioned to carry a full review of the Graduate visa route with further crack downs planned to reduce "abuse" of the current system
What are the likely impacts?
The Government claims that the new measures will cut net migration by an estimated 300,000 and will achieve their aim of significantly reducing migration in the UK as set out in their last election. However, the changes have faced huge criticism and the Government is accused of causing more harm than good with these measures.
Whilst large organisations in industries like Finance, IT, and Business Management may not be affected by the increase in the minimum salary threshold, smaller businesses, and those in industries such as Leisure and Hospitality will be priced out of utilising the Skilled Worker route to fill labour shortages. This is particularly so with the planned increase in the NHS surcharge for £624 to £1,035 per year. Another consideration is how these measures will affect those already on a Skilled Worker visa due to expire; they will either need a hefty pay rise when their visa runs out, having a significant impact upon UK businesses, or will risk being unable to stay in the UK.
Mr Cleverly said "Immigration policy must be fair, legal and sustainable" so it was at least some comfort that as part of the announcement, he clarified that people using the Health and Care visa route will be exempted from the increase to the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas, and he will exempt those on national pay scales, for example teachers. However, despite this concession, care workers will no longer be permitted to bring their dependants.
It is likely these measures will increase the immediate rise in fears of more NHS staff shortages. If migrant workers are no longer allowed to bring their partners and/or children to the UK, it would be a fair assumption that they will look elsewhere for job opportunities.
Perhaps the most surprising point of the Government's plan is the increase of the minimum income threshold for those applying under the family route. The substantial increase from £18,600 to £38,700 takes the threshold above the national average salary and again fails to consider geographical differences in salaries. It also fails to state what, if any, uplift will apply to families applying with non-British citizen. What is clear, is that the changes will make the position difficult for many families and will result in an increase of Human Rights applications and subsequent appeal.
We would advise anyone affected by the changes to act promptly if possible and submit their application before the changes are implemented next year. Consulting an immigration lawyer can help ensure you understand the new rules and complete visa formalities before the new stricter measures take force.
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