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06 December 2023

Seismic changes announced by UK Government in respect to work and family visa routes

3 mins

With the UK Government’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda being ruled unlawful by the UK Supreme Court on 15 November, and with the release of the latest ‘net migration’ figures, Home Secretary James Cleverly announced on 4 December a new five-point plan to reduce net migration.

Due to come into force in Spring 2024, the announcement focuses on and introduces a number of significant changes:

  • The Skilled Worker ‘going rate’ earnings threshold will increase by a third, from £26,500pa to £38,700pa – an increase of over £12,000 per year
  • Health and Social Care Visa workers will be exempt from the increased base salary threshold, but such sponsored workers will no longer be able to bring their family members to the UK. Additionally, all Healthcare or Social Care sponsors will need to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission to sponsor visas
  • The 20% going rate salary discount for roles on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will be scrapped and the SOL will be reformed
    • A new immigration salary list will be created, with a reduced number of occupations, in co-ordination with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)
  • The Home Secretary has asked the MAC to review the Graduate Visa route “to prevent abuse and protect the integrity and quality” of the UK’s higher education sector
    • This follows further changes to the Immigration Rules governing overseas students (which are due to be introduced in January 2024) and which will prevent such nationals from bringing their family members with them unless they are undertaking a postgraduate degree with a research focus
  • The annual Minimum Income Requirement for those applying for visas as the family members of British Citizens will be increased by £20,000 – up from £18,600 to £38,700

These changes will specifically impact the health sector, which relies heavily on migrant workers and already faces staff shortages. Overseas care workers not being able to bring dependants with them to the UK represents a fundamental change to how the UK welcomes overseas workers, and will result in an already overstretched sector facing increased pressure. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has commented that an increase in the Skilled Worker earnings threshold will not address shortages currently holding back business investment and growth.

The increase to the Minimum Income Requirement for the family members of British Citizens to an eye-watering £38,700 will penalise the vast majority of British citizens and those settled in the UK, who wish to bring their family members to the UK, from being able to live together in the UK with their partner and children. Women, and mothers in particular, will be disproportionately affected by this increase. The Home Secretary is yet to announce whether there will be any transitional provisions to prevent those currently in the UK on the Skilled Worker or family routes being affected by these changes. Meanwhile, the proposed changes risk causing further considerable disruption in the health sector, stymying economic growth and, perhaps most significantly, denying the right of British citizens to live with their partner and children from overseas in the UK unless they earn more than the median average annual salary for full time employment.

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