New Five-Point Plan to Cut UK Immigration in Spring 2024

BUSINESS AND PERSONAL IMMIGRATION, 05 December 2023

The UK Government has on 04 December 2023 announced major changes to the UK immigration system to take effect in Spring 2024.  The proposals announced are more robust than those announced by any Government before with the aim of reducing net migration.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has rationalised the measures by stating that levels of immigration are too high and need to come down to sustainable levels.

What are the main changes announced?

A new five-point plan will be introduced that will take effect in Spring 2024 mainly targeting foreign skilled workers, students and family members of British citizens and people settled in the UK.

First Point: Health and Care Worker visas and annual Immigration Health Surcharge increase

The first point of the five-point plan will be to end the considered abuse of the Health and Care Worker visa. Measures will be introduced to stop overseas care workers bringing family dependants to the UK, and care firms based in England will be required to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in order to sponsor individuals in health or social care roles.

The annual immigration health surcharge will also be increased by 66%, from £624 to £1035 per year to ensure that migrants make a big enough financial contribution to the National Health Service (NHS) when accessing healthcare in the UK. Migrants applying for UK immigration permission need to pay the full amount of the immigration healthcare surcharge upfront if they’re applying for a visa for more than 6 months from outside of the UK, or for any length of time if applying from inside the UK.

Second Point: Skilled Worker visa gross annual salary threshold increased

The minimum gross annual salary to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa will be increased from £26,200 per year to £38,700.  Those coming to the UK on health and social care visa routes will be exempt.

Third Point: Shortage occupation 20% salary discount scrapped and Shortage Occupation List (SOL) revised

The 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations will be scrapped. The UK’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL) lists jobs that the UK Government deems are in short supply within the UK labour market.   Inclusion on the SOL currently means that jobs listed as shortage occupations qualify at a 20% lower salary threshold (£20,960 instead of £26,200) for a Skilled Worker visa making it easier for overseas workers with expertise in shortage occupations to come and work in the UK and tackle labour shortages.

Shortage occupations currently listed on the SOL are in the fields of architecture, construction, education, engineering, fishing, health and care, IT, science and the arts. More recent additions to the SOL included roles in the construction and fishing sectors to tackle post-Brexit labour shortages.

The SOL will be reformed with the Migration Advisory Committee reviewing the shortage occupations on the list in light of the new higher skilled worker salary threshold, and a reduced number of occupations will be included on the SOL along with a new immigration salary list. 

Fourth Point: Family visa gross annual salary threshold increased

The minimum income requirement for a British citizen or settled individual to bring a family member to the UK will be increased to the same threshold as that to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, to £38,700 from £18,600.  The minimum income requirement of £18,600 has not been increased since 2012.

This will also mean that if salaried employment at the new £38,700 salary threshold cannot be relied on for a British citizen or settled individual to bring a family member to the UK, to rely alternatively on cash savings, they must have held at least £112,750 for a consecutive 6-month period as opposed to the current £62,500 amount.

Fifth Point: Graduate visa route reviewed

The Graduate visa category will be reviewed with the closure of the route in Spring 2024 a potential outcome mirroring the previous closure of the similar post-study work route in April 2012. The Graduate visa route currently provides the opportunity for an international student to remain in the UK for a period of between 2 to 3 years following the successful completion of an eligible course of study in the UK at bachelor’s degree-level or above to work or look for work.

Implications for UK immigration

It is considered that in total, this five-point plan, together with the previously announced reduction in student dependants separately to be implemented as from January 2024, will mean that around 300,000 fewer people will come to the UK in 2024 and in future years.

How can we help?

We can provide comprehensive advice to businesses and individuals in England and Scotland and based globally that may be impacted by the new five-point plan to ensure minimal disruption to your business and personal UK immigration plans in 2024 and beyond.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com