Immigration update - March 2024

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Our latest bulletin addresses aspects of the Government’s latest Statement of Changes to the UK Immigration Rules most relevant to UK employers. The headline changes relate to minimum salary thresholds under certain categories. Most of the changes were foreshadowed by the Home Secretary’s announcement in December 2023. The below are effective for all applications submitted on or after 4 April 2024.

Changes to the Skilled Worker Route/Other Work Routes

Short of reinstating the Resident Labour Market Test and/or the minimum Skills Threshold for Skilled Workers to the previous Related Qualifications Framework (RQF) 6 level, an approximate 47% increase in the minimum gross annual salary threshold from £26,200 to £38,700, reflects a protectionist step intended to prioritise recruitment from the resident workforce. 

Key related changes are:

  • In line with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system will be updated from SOC 2010 to SOC 2020. Due to this change, some occupations previously covered by the Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes will no longer be covered but current visa holders will benefit from transitional arrangements;
  • As previously, and with some exceptions, the relevant threshold for any Skilled Worker application will be the higher of £38,700 or the minimum salary threshold in the relevant Code of Practice (COP). Given that minimum COP thresholds will increase from the 25th percentile to median UK earnings, the ultimate minimum salary cost to UK employers may exceed £38,700;
  • The changes are not retrospective for those currently in the Skilled Worker route albeit adjusted higher thresholds will apply to all extensions, changes of employment and settlement applications submitted prior to 4 April 2030 and
  • Whilst salary increases bases on ONS data will be made, minimum salary discounts will continue to apply to applicants with relevant PhD qualifications, new entrants, eligible applicants transitioning from UK Student Visas and National Pay Scale Occupations.

Other Work Routes

Minimum salary thresholds will also impact other work routes including:

  • Under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) route, the minimum salary threshold under the Senior/Specialist category for eligible applicants with 12 months continuous overseas tenure will increase from £45,800 to £48,500 with "going rates" also increasing in line with updated ONS data. The minimum salary threshold for high earners remains at £73,900; and
  • Again under the GBM route, the minimum salary threshold under the Graduate Trainee route increases from £24,220 to £25,410 with current “going rates” updated in line with latest ONS data.

Given the substantial increases particularly under the Skilled Worker route and where possible, employers should focus on recruitment of first time Skilled Workers prior to the 4 April deadline to ensure future applications are dealt with under transitional arrangements.

Shortage Occupation List 

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in its current form will be abolished and replaced with a simplified Immigration Salary List (ISL). The rationale is that the new ISL will address not only occupations experiencing shortages but also those where the Government considers it prudent to offer discounted minimum salary thresholds. The Migration Advisory Committee will review the ISL later this year and presumably going forward, on an annual basis. Whilst roles on the ISL will still benefit from a 20% discount to the general minimum salary threshold, the 20% discount to the previous “going rate” requirement is being removed.

Change to the minimum income requirement for new applications under the Appendix FM provisions

The Government has backtracked from its initial proposal to increase the minimum requirement to £38,700 but the threshold increases from the current £18,600 to £29,000 albeit to balance the scales, the additional minimum income requirement for separate children is being removed.

Changes to the Electronic Travel Authorisation

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is the cornerstone of the Government’s plan to regulate entries to the UK as Visitors for Non Visa Nationals. The scheme currently applies to nationals of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Jordan, with full role out for all Non Visa Nationals expected prior to the end of 2024. The changes add grounds for refusal of applications for ETA in line those which currently apply to all those currently applying to enter the UK as Visitors.

For further information and advice on all UK immigration issues, contact Jonathan Chaimovic or your regular Clyde & Co contact.