UK immigration – important clarifications & timeline for new immigration measures to curb net migration
On Monday 4 December 2023, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary announced the plan to cut net migration which together with the package to restrict student dependants, is expected to reduce the numbers by around 300,000. We summarised the plan in our blog article on 4th December 2023.
Package announced in early December 2023 contained the following measures
The package announced in early December 2023 contained the following measures:
- Stopping overseas care workers from bringing dependants and requiring social care firms in England who wish to sponsor care worker visas to be providing services regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
- Increasing the minimum earnings threshold for Skilled Worker visas from £26,200 to £38,700 and raise the individual occupation ‘going rate’ thresholds in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs in 2023.
- Those coming on the Health and Social Care Visa route will be exempt from the £38,700 salary threshold applied to skilled workers, to continue to bring the healthcare workers that care sector and NHS need. Home Office is also exempting education workers on national pay-scale occupations.
- Reform the Shortage Occupation List into an Immigration Salary List (ISL), ending the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations – commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the composition of the list in line with the increased salary thresholds.
- Raise the minimum income requirement for family visas. Home Office intention remains to bring this in line with the new minimum general salary threshold for Skilled Workers, £38,700. This will ensure people only bring dependants to the UK they can support financially and will apply to all British and settled sponsors under the five-year partner route.
- Home Office will raise of the minimum income for family visas incrementally, in stages, to give predictability to families.
- In Spring 2024 Home Office will raise the threshold to £29,000, that is the 25th percentile of earnings for jobs at the skill level of RQF3 , moving to the 40th percentile (currently £34,500) and finally the 50th percentile (currently £38,700 and the level at which the General Skilled Worker threshold is set).
- There will no longer be a separate child element to the minimum income requirement, to ensure that British nationals are not treated less favourably than migrants who are required to meet the General Skilled Worker threshold as a flat rate, regardless of any children being sponsored.
- Home Office will also ask the MAC to review the Graduate route.
When the December 2023 changes are due to take effect
Until the Immigration Rules are amended, the current thresholds and policies remain in place. Full details of transitional provisions will be set out next year when further policy details will be announced. However, in the meantime in order to provide further clarity for those currently in the UK on routes that will be subject to change Home Office confirmed the below on 21st December 2023.
Carers and senior carers – these changes will be introduced as soon as possible in the new year
- Care workers (SOC code 6145)  and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) already in the route will be able to remain with their dependants, including extending, changing employer (within these SOC codes) and settlement.
- Where 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).
- Individuals who are in the UK on any other route, including where that route permits dependants, who switch into the care visa as a care worker or senior care worker after this date, will not be able to stay with (or bring over) dependants.
- Care providers who were sponsoring workers in exclusively non-regulated activities (and therefore not required to be registered with the CQC) before the rules change should be able to continue to sponsor these workers, including for extensions to their visa on those terms, but not hire new ones.
Salary thresholds – these changes will be introduced via Immigration Rules with implementation in April 2024
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. Home Office 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.
Immigration Salary List – Home Office will commission the MAC in January 2024
- 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.
- The current SOL will remain in place until the new salary thresholds are put in place in late Spring 2024.
Family migration minimum income
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
The Migration Advisory Committee MAC will review the visa route to ensure that it is operating in the best interests and priorities of the UK, and ensuring the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system is maintained. Home Office will commission the MAC in January and we expect their work to continue until late 2024.