Hadi Law

From 4 April 2024, people based outside the UK and Republic of Ireland who want to work in the UK face strict new visa requirements. The new rules were published on 14 March 2024 and will have far-reaching implications for those wanting to come and work in the UK and for businesses recruiting overseas talent.

What is the Motivation Behind the Work Visa Changes?

In the year to December 2022, UK net migration was 745,000 after being revised up from the original figure of 606,000. Although the sharp rise has been attributed to workers and their families arriving in the country to fill much needed NHS and social care role, the figure prompted furious comments from the right-wing of the governing Conservative Party. The New Conservatives, a group of right-wing backbenchers, called on the government to come up with an immediate plan to reduce immigration numbers before the next election. “The word ‘existential’ has been used a lot in recent days but this really is do or die for our party. Each of us made a promise to the electorate. We don’t believe that such promises can be ignored.” ONS data for the year to June 2023 shows a lower net migration figure of 672,000.

What is the UK Skilled Worker Visa?

The UK Skilled Worker visa allows overseas nationals to work in the UK provided they are employed in an eligible occupation and meet the minimum salary requirements. The eligible occupations include a diverse range of roles, from chief executives and senior officials to carpenters, joiners, care workers, and home carers. Those who qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa can bring their dependent family members to the UK. Those applying for a Skilled Worker Visa must have a job offer from an approved employer who holds a valid Sponsor Licence and can offer an overseas worker a Certificate of Sponsorship.

What are the Changes to the Skilled Worker Visa?

For employers, the key change concerns the Minimum Salary Requirement. This is the minimum amount an employer must pay an overseas worker. Employers will still need to pay the higher of the general threshold or the going rate for the job in question. The difference is that these rates have been increased significantly. Below are the details of the new Minimum Salary thresholds:
  • Option A (most applications): from £26,200 to £38,700.
  • Option B (relevant PhD): from £23,800 to £34,830.
  • Option C (relevant STEM PhD): from £20,960 to £30,960.
  • Option D (shortage occupation/Immigration Salary List): from £20,960 to £30,960.
  • Option E (new entrants): from £20,960 to £30,960.
Significantly, the 20 per cent discount previously available for employers hiring for positions on the Shortage Occupation List has been removed. This will result in hefty salary hikes for many jobs. In addition, the Shortage Occupation List itself has been abolished and replaced with the Immigration Salary List. The ‘new entrant’ salary discounts for those applying for a Skilled Worker Visa in certain cases (including students switching to Skilled Worker, applicants under 26 years old, and those working towards full registration or chartered status, such as architects and accountants) will remain.

Has the Health and Social Care Route Changed?

There are small increases for employers recruiting health and social care workers, namely:
  • Option F (most applications): from £26,200 to £29,000.
  • Option G (relevant PhD): from £23,800 to £26,100.
  • Option H (relevant STEM PhD): from £20,960 to £23,200.
  • Option I (shortage occupation/Immigration Salary List): from £20,960 to £23,200.
  • Option J (new entrants): from £20,960 to £23,200.

Are there any Changes to the Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker Route?

The salary threshold for the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa (formally the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa) has risen from £45,800 to £48,500, or to the updated going rate salary, whichever is higher. However, unlike the Skilled Worker route, guaranteed allowances and company provided accommodation allowances (typically up to 30 per cent of the total salary package) can be included in the salary figure in order for the worker to meet the minimum salary threshold.

Wrapping up

Although the Home Office has targeted the Skilled Worker Visa route by increasing the minimum salary required in an attempt to reduce net migration, it remains an extremely valuable and flexible route for highly skilled people who want to develop their career and experience all the UK has to offer. Not only can those holding a Skilled Worker Visa stay in the UK for up to five years and bring their immediate family with them, but once they have reached this point, they can apply to settle permanently (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and possibly gain British citizenship 12 months later. For further information on any personal or business immigration matter, please speak to our immigration law team on 01772 447000 or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline on 07869760533.
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