Significant Changes to UK Immigration Rules From 4 April 2024 Confirmed

Significant changes to uk immigration rules from 4 april 2024 confirmed in latest statement of changes​ immtell | immtell

Significant Changes to UK Immigration Rules From 4 April 2024 Confirmed in Latest Statement of Changes

On 14 March 2024, the UK Home Office confirmed its most significant overhaul of work visa pathways since Brexit, signalling a determined effort by the government to reduce net migration.

The changes predominantly target the Skilled Worker visa category and is scheduled to take effect from 4 April 2024, although it will also impact other employment-based immigration routes.

For businesses employing or looking to hire overseas talent, it’s crucial to understand the forthcoming changes.

Summary of the Changes

  • Increases to the general and occupation-specific salary requirements for the Skilled Worker Route starting 4 April 2024;
  • Discontinue the Shortage Occupation List, replacing it with a new Immigration Salary List from 4 April 2024;
  • Expand the scope of allowable activities for workers sponsored under employment visas beyond their primary roles, effective 4 April 2024;
  • Raise the minimum income requirement for the Family Route, to take effect on 11 April 2024.
  • The salary threshold for Carers and Senior Carers will increase to £23,200 or £11.90 per hour if the CoS is assigned from 4 April 2024.

The Detail

Changes to the Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker visa route is set to undergo extensive changes, including:

  • An increase in the general salary thresholds across the board for the varied points-based options, alongside the introduction of new points options to accommodate those under transitional provisions (detailed further below);
  • A rise in the specific salary rates for occupations, shifting from the 25th percentile to the median (50th percentile), albeit with some exceptions for roles tied to national pay scales and those within the Health and Care sectors not governed by such scales;
  • Revisions to the salary rates for positions subject to national pay scales and Health and Care sector roles outside of these scales, reflecting the most recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics and/or updated national pay scale figures;
  • An update to occupational codes, transitioning from the SOC 2010 framework to SOC 2020. This change includes the addition of a new table within Appendix Skilled Occupations to facilitate UK extension or settlement applications for individuals in now-obsolete occupational codes;
  • Replacing the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with a new Immigration Salary List (ISL), eliminating the previous 20% salary rate discount for listed occupations;
  • A notable broadening of permission for supplementary employment; and
  • The incorporation of Health and Care visa requirements directly into the Immigration Rules, previously managed through a separate policy document, without altering the criteria except for updating occupational codes to SOC 2020.

Despite these widespread changes, the points options for new entrants and PhD holders remain, maintaining the existing discounts on the general threshold and occupation-specific salary rates.

However, the salary requirement for these categories will substantially increase due to significant increases in the general salary threshold and the shift in occupation-specific rates from the 25th to the 50th percentile.

Skilled Workers assigned with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) before 4 April 2024 who have also continuously maintained their Skilled Worker status will be subject to transitional provisions until 3 April 2030.

Salary Threshold Adjustments

The revisions to the salary thresholds for the Skilled Worker visa are detailed as follows:

A salary meeting or surpassing the general threshold and the occupation-specific rate, whichever is higher, will now grant 20 tradeable points. Under the new regulations, the applicable rate is higher between the median (50th percentile) rate and £15.88 per hour.

For those covered by the transitional provisions, the relevant rate is the greater value between the 25th percentile rate and £11.90 per hour.

Key to the Below Table:

New applications from 4 April 2024
  • Option A – Basic salary requirement.
  • Option B & C – PhD points related.
  • Options D – For roles on the new Immigration Salary List.
  • Option E – For new entrants.
  • Option K – For some health and education roles.
Transitional arrangements

For those already on the Skilled Worker visa or have made a valid application for a Skilled Worker visa before 4th April, and you apply to extend or switch your sponsor later.

  • Option F – Basic salary requirement.
  • Option G & H – PhD points related.
  • Options I – For roles on the new Immigration Salary List.
  • Option J– For new entrants.

Points Option

New Salary Thresholds

Transitional Salary Thresholds

A

Salary equals or exceeds both: £38,700 per year and the going rate for the occupation code in the 50th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

N/A

B

PhD in a subject relevant to the job and salary equals or exceeds both: £34,830 per year and 90% of the going rate for the occupation code in the 50th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

N/A

C

PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job and salary equals or exceeds both: £30,960 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation code in the 50th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

N/A

D

Job is on the Immigration Salary List and salary equals or exceeds both: £30,960 per year and the going rate for the occupation code in the 50th percentile, based on SOC 2020. No going rate discount is applicable.

N/A

E

Applicant is new entrant at the start of their career and their salary equals or exceeds both: £30,960 per year and 70% of the going rate for the occupation code in the 50th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

N/A

F

N/A

Salary equals or exceeds both: £29,000 per year and the going rate for the occupation code in the 25th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

G

N/A

PhD in a subject relevant to the job and salary equals or exceeds both: £26,100 per year and 90% of the going rate for the occupation code in the 25th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

H

N/A

PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job and their salary equals or exceeds both: £23,200 per year and 80% of the going rate for the occupation code in the 25th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

I

N/A

Job is on the Immigration Salary List and salary equals or exceeds both: £23,200 per year and the going rate for the occupation code in the 25th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

J

N/A

Applicant is a new entrant at the start of their career and their salary equals or exceeds both: £23,200 per year and 70% of the going rate for the occupation code in the 25th percentile, based on SOC 2020.

K

Job is in a listed health or education occupation and salary equals or exceeds both: £23,200 per year and the going rate for the occupation code in the 25th percentile, based on the latest data.

N/A

Supplementary Employment Flexibility for Skilled Workers

In a significant relaxation from existing policies, Skilled Workers in the UK can now engage in supplementary employment across any occupation eligible under the Skilled Worker route. This adjustment allows them to undertake additional work beyond their primary sponsored role, provided it occurs outside of their contracted hours and does not exceed 20 hours per week.

Previously, such supplementary employment was confined to roles within the same occupation and professional level as their sponsored position or professions listed on the Shortage Occupation List. This expansion of eligibility broadens the scope for Skilled Workers to pursue additional employment opportunities, potentially making the option more attractive to a greater number of individuals.

Employers must keep accurate records for any supplementary employment their workers undertake. This requirement underscores the importance of maintaining compliance with immigration rules and guidelines.

However, it’s important to note that this more lenient stance on supplementary employment does not extend to other categories of sponsored workers, where specific conditions on supplementary employment still apply.

Transitional Arrangements in the Skilled Worker Route

Transitional provisions have been outlined for individuals currently holding or applying for permission under the Skilled Worker route with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned before 4 April 2024. This includes those submitting applications after this date.

Under these arrangements, a general salary threshold based on the 25th percentile remains in effect, though it has been increased from £26,200 to £29,000 for CoS assigned from 4 April 2024 onwards. This adjustment reflects an effort to keep pace with inflation rates.

Introducing new tradeable points options (F to K) caters to those under transitional arrangements, with going rate salaries revised in line with the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data from 2023. Despite inflationary pressures, these updated salary thresholds represent a significant rise from previous levels.

For Skilled Workers seeking settlement in the UK under transitional provisions, the minimum salary requirement is set at £29,000 or the applicable going rate for their occupation (determined by the 25th percentile under tradeable points option F), whichever is higher.

These transitional arrangements will remain valid until 3 April 2030, when individuals continue to meet the requirements for continuous status under the Skilled Worker route. The Immigration Rules offer some leniency for minor breaches of continuous residence, with certain short overstays being overlooked. However, applicants are advised to submit any applications for extension, change of employment, or settlement before the 4 April 2030 deadline, as applications processed after this date will be subject to the revised salary criteria.

Changes to other work routes

Adjustments to Supplementary Employment Across Other Work Routes

New restrictions have been introduced for workers in categories other than the Skilled Worker route who are permitted to engage in supplementary employment. Supplementary work is now exclusively allowed if the role is listed on the Immigration Salary List (ISL) or aligns precisely with the profession and professional level of the sponsored job.

This adjustment marks a considerable tightening of rules, as the Shortage Occupation List previously included a broader range of occupations than the ISL.

Update on SOC Codes Across Work Routes

The transition to the SOC 2020 occupation coding system now impacts all employment-based immigration pathways. Individuals whose roles fall under codes that have been removed can still apply for extensions using their existing SOC 2010 code, ensuring continuity for those affected by the coding update.

Global Business Mobility Routes: Senior or Specialist Worker and UK Expansion Worker

Significant changes have been implemented for the Senior or Specialist Worker and Expansion Worker sub-categories of the Global Business Mobility visa routes:

  • The general salary requirement has been increased from £45,800 to £48,500.
  • Although the going salary rates continue to reflect the 25th percentile, they have been revised to align with the most recent Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data from 2023.
  • The threshold for high earners remains unchanged at £73,900.

Transitional provisions are set to last until 3 April 2030 for individuals currently sponsored or those applying with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned before 4 April 2024. However, unlike the Skilled Worker route, individuals in these categories will not utilise these arrangements for employer changes or settlement applications.

Global Business Mobility: Graduate Trainee Route Adjustments

For the Graduate Trainee route within Global Business Mobility, adjustments effective from 4 April 2024 include:

  • An increase in the general salary threshold from £24,220 to £25,410.
  • The going salary rates will maintain at 70% of the 25th percentile, yet updated according to the latest ASHE 2023 data, ensuring that salary requirements reflect current economic conditions.

Creative Worker Route Changes

The Creative Worker visa route will no longer require a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). A new requirement mandates that Creative Workers demonstrate a unique contribution to the UK’s creative sector.

Scale-up Route Update

Initially set to have a higher general salary threshold than that for skilled workers, the scale-up route has increased from £34,600 to £36,300. This update results in a lower threshold compared to the Skilled Worker’s general salary threshold of £38,700.

Transitional provisions apply for certificates of sponsorship issued between 12 April 2023 and 3 April 2024, allowing for extensions or settlement if the salary meets or exceeds £34,600 annually.

Seasonal Worker Route Enhancements

Specifically for poultry workers, who are paid at rates in line with the Skilled Worker route, the salary and hourly rate thresholds have been increased from £26,200 to £38,700 and £10.75 to £15.88, respectively.

Moreover, the minimum hourly wage for this route has been revised to range from £10.42 to £11.44, aligning with increases in the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage standards.

Partner Route Changes

The Partner visa route, which allows holders to work in the UK, is seeing a significant increase in its minimum income requirement. This threshold is rising from £18,600 to £29,000 for the primary applicant. In a notable policy shift, the additional financial burden of supporting children under this route is being removed, simplifying the income requirements for families.

The savings threshold that can contribute towards meeting this minimum income requirement remains unchanged at £16,000.

These changes will apply to applications submitted from 11 April 2024 onwards. For those who have previously made a successful application as a fiancé(e), proposed civil partner, or partner before this date, the existing financial criteria will still apply under transitional provisions.

Tightened Work Permissions for Asylum Seekers

From 4 April 2024, asylum seekers’ ability to request work permission will be further limited to occupations listed on the Immigration Salary List. This is a significant tightening from the current policy, allowing applications across occupations on the Shortage Occupation List.

This change narrows the opportunities for asylum seekers to integrate into the workforce, restricting them to higher-paid roles that may be less accessible.

Recommendations for Employers

Considering these impending changes, employers must proactively manage their recruitment and sponsorship processes. Employers are advised to assess potential applicants and assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) before the 4 April 2024 cutoff, wherever feasible.

Given the potential for processing delays, which could impede the ability to obtain a CoS promptly, early action is essential to navigate the procedural backlog and ensure compliance with the new regulations. This strategic foresight will be key in mitigating disruptions to workforce planning and maintaining legal hiring practices under the updated immigration framework.

These changes are significant and not the simplest to navigate.  If you have any questions or require support, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@immtell.com or call on +44 (0) 20 3910 6641.

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