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Updated summary of five-point plan to reduce net migration

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This article was published on 12 December 2023 and updated on 19 February 2024.

On 4 December 2023, Home Secretary James Cleverly announced 5 proposals designed to reduce net migration to the UK.  Most changes target business immigration, but the Government casts its net over international graduates and lovers too.

1.    Skilled Worker salary increases from 4 April 2024

The standard salary threshold for most Skilled Workers will increase to £38,700. The Minister for Legal Migration has confirmed that workers who are already in the Skilled Worker route will not be subject to the new £38,700 salary threshold, even when they change employment, extend their Skilled Worker permission or apply for settlement.

The change will effectively undo the lowering of the skills threshold in December 2020 that has allowed Skilled Workers to fill so-called “medium skilled” roles as well as “high-skilled roles”. Health and Care workers will be exempt from the higher salary threshold.

The Government will also raise the individual occupation ‘going rate’ salary thresholds to the 50th percentile of salaries paid for each individual occupation, up from the current 25th percentile. Those already in the Skilled Worker route should be exempt from the new median salary levels when they change sponsor, extend, or settle; they would be subject to updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle.

2.    Health and Care workers will not be able to bring dependants from 11 March 2024

Despite the exemption from the salary threshold hike, Health and Care workers do not escape the Home Secretary’s scrutiny. The removal of Health and Care Workers’ right to bring dependants will come into force on 11 March 2024. 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 settling in the UK.

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 as a Health and Care Worker.

Dependants of individuals who are in the UK on any visa other than Health and Care, who switch to a Health and Care visa as a care worker or senior care worker after 11 March 2024, will not be able to remain dependants; they would have to apply for another visa type or leave the UK.

Also coming into effect on 11 March 2024 is the restriction on use of the Health and Care sponsorship to employers regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Care providers who were sponsoring workers in exclusively non-regulated activities, and therefore not required to be registered with the CQC, before 11 March 2024 will be able to continue to sponsor these workers, including for extensions to their Health and Care visas. Care providers not required to be registered with the CQC will not be able to sponsor hire new workers.

3.    Shortage Occupation List becomes Immigration Salary List, expected 4 April 2024

Roles identified as suffering from labour shortages will no longer benefit from a lower Skilled Worker salary requirement. The Government is adopting the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s recommendation to end the 20% going-rate salary discount for shortage occupations.

The MAC will publish initial recommendations regarding roles for inclusion on the ‘Immigration Salary List’ at the end of February, with entry into force expected on 4 April 2024. In its previous reviews, the MAC did not recommend that the Government use the SOL to allow for lower salaries; the salary reduction was the Government’s own initiative, as it contorted the Skilled Worker route salary calculations to be able to present the UK’s immigration system as a ‘Points-Based System’, which it is not now and never has been.

Changes Immigration Trainee Anna Asumadu’s article discusses the MAC’s 2023 review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The SOL will be renamed the ‘Immigration Salary List’.

4.    Review of the Graduate visa route

The Graduate visa authorises international students to work in the UK for two years after graduating from a degree-level course. The route affords employers the opportunity assess a non-UK national worker during a probationary period before committing to sponsoring them. The visa also affords Students some time to set up a business or try out a job in the UK before moving on to a business or work visa.

The Home Office was expected to commission the MAC to begin work on the Graduate visa review in January 2024 but has not yet done so. The MAC is expected to report on the Graduate visa in late 2024.

The Government has yo-yo’ed on this route, introducing its predecessor route, the Post-Study Work visa and then abolishing that route, before reintroducing it as the Graduate route.

5.    Lovers beware – minimum salary threshold increases from 11 April 2024

The minimum income threshold for family members under the five-year route to settlement will increase incrementally, starting at £29,000 from 11 April 2024 and rising to around £34,500 sometime later in 2024, and again to £38,700 by early 2025. This visa route applies to spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners and fiancés of British nationals, people with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, certain EU nationals with immigration permission under the EU Settlement Scheme, and refugees among others.

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.

Currently, the minimum income threshold increases in line with the number of children applying. From 11 April 2024, the same minimum income threshold will apply regardless of the number of children applying.

We handle a lot of these applications at Changes Immigration. £18,600 might not seem like a lot but The threshold increases where a couple has children. Combined with Home Office policy restrictions on what funds they will count toward the financial threshold amount, it becomes clear that it can be difficult for the average family to meet.

For example, if you are relying on savings, they must be cash savings, the Home Office will only consider savings above £16,000 and divides that amount by 2.5 to come to the amount that it will count towards the £18,600 threshold, so that a minimum of £62,500 in savings is required. We do not yet have details of how the increased Minimum income thresholds would be applied. If the new threshold will apply to applicants relying on cash savings, required savings would increase from £62,500 to £88,500.

The last time the UK pursued blanket policies to reduce net migration figures, hostile environment policies lead to abuses such as the Windrush scandal, the lessons of which the Government is evidently uninterested in learning.

You can watch our original video summarising the five-point plan announced in December 2023 here:

Publication date: 12 December 2023

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Author avatar
Samar Shams
Managing Partner @ Changes Immigration
samar.shams@changesimmigration.com
+44 (0) 7591 385033