Skilled Worker UK Visa Changes: April 2024

Business Immigration, 15 March 2024

A new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules has been published on 14 March 2024 outlining upcoming changes to the Skilled Worker visa route.

The changes primarily concern steps to reduce net migration by raising the general salary threshold from £26,200 to £38,700, while bringing salary requirements for individual occupations in line with median pay for resident workers in those occupations, and replacing the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List. Together, these changes aim to encourage businesses to invest in the resident workforce rather than over-relying on migration.

Changes to the Skilled Worker UK Visa Route

Minimum gross annual salary increase

Sponsoring employers must pay Skilled Workers at least a general salary threshold or the ‘going rate’ for the individual occupation, whichever is higher.   New general salary thresholds and going rates will take effect as from 4 April 2024 based on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) pay data.

The minimum gross annual salary threshold to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa will be increased by nearly 50% from its current position of £26,200 to £38,700 from 4 April 2024.

An applicant on the Skilled Worker visa route can alternatively, score 20 tradeable points for their salary based on other attributes, such as having a relevant PhD or being a new entrant at the start of their career.  For the other ways in which an applicant can score 20 tradeable points for salary, the minimum general salary thresholds will also be increased as below from 4 April 2024:

  • If an applicant holds a PhD in a subject relevant to the job, the minimum gross annual salary is being increased by nearly 50% from £23,580 to £34,830.
  • If an applicant holds a PhD in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) subject relevant to the job, the minimum gross annual salary is being increased by nearly 50% from £20,960 to £30,960.
  • If an applicant is being sponsored for a job on the new Immigration Salary List, which is replacing the current Shortage Occupation List (SOL), the minimum gross annual salary will be £30,960. The minimum salary to qualify on the current SOL is only £20,960 per annum. 
  • If an applicant is a new entrant at the start of their career, the minimum gross annual salary is being increased by nearly 50% from £20,960 to £30,960.

Are there any exceptions to the new salary figures above?

Workers sponsored for Health and Care visas are exempt from the new median salary requirements. Instead, a general threshold based on the 25th percentile continues to apply.

For those individuals who will be sponsored in a new designated “Health and Care ASHE salary job”, and for those granted permission as a Skilled Worker before 4 April 2024, who have had continuous permission as a Skilled Worker since then and the date of the application is before 4 April 2030:

  • The minimum gross annual salary will be £29,000.  Otherwise:
  • If an applicant holds a PhD in a subject relevant to the job, the minimum gross annual salary will be £26,100.
  • If an applicant holds a PhD in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) subject relevant to the job, the minimum gross annual salary will be £23,200.
  • If an applicant is being sponsored for a job on the new Immigration Salary List, the minimum gross annual salary will be £23,200.
  • If an applicant is a new entrant at the start of their career, the minimum gross annual salary will be £23,200.

If an applicant is being sponsored for a job in a new eligible SOC 2020 listed health or education occupation code, the minimum gross annual salary will also be increased from £20,960 to £23,200.  However, if such an applicant is being sponsored for a job in certain SOC 2020 occupation codes such as midwifery, community, specialist, mental health or children’s nurses, this salary may be temporarily (for up to 8 months) be less than £23,200 per annum in certain circumstances.

Update of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Code System to SOC 2020 and Appendix Skilled Occupations

Changes are also being made to update the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code system used in the immigration system from SOC 2010 to SOC 2020.

As from 4 April 2024, Appendix Skilled Occupations is being replaced by a new version based on SOC 2020. Differences in the data mean the list of occupations eligible for the Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility visa routes do not encompass all workers who may be in the routes before these Rules take effect. Additional tables are being included to enable these workers to make applications to extend their stay or (in the case of Skilled Worker) settle in these occupations.

The ’going rates’ for each eligible occupation code in SOC 2020 are also being raised from the 25th percentile UK earnings to the median UK earnings based on the latest ONS pay data.

As noted above, sponsoring employers must pay Skilled Workers at least a general salary threshold or the ‘going rate’ for the individual occupation, whichever is higher.   It is worth noting that in many instances, the ‘going rate’ in the new Appendix Skilled Occupations is significantly higher than the current figures: for example, increasing from £42,800 to £70,000 for Financial Managers and Directors, from £50,000 to £83,000 for Marketing, Sales and Advertising Directors, from £36,500 to £49,400 for Human Resource Managers and Directors and from £37,600 to £51,700 for IT business analysts, architects and systems designers, as just a few examples.

New Appendix Immigration Salary List

From 4 April 2024, the Shortage Occupation List is being removed and replaced by a new Immigration Salary List, to make clearer that the entries on the list are those where the Government considers it sensible to offer a discounted salary threshold, rather than being a list of all occupations experiencing labour shortages in the UK.

The contents of the new list have been informed by a review carried out by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The MAC will carry out a full review of the list later in 2024. As with the previous list, included occupations have a 20% discount to the general salary threshold (to £30,960 or £23,200, depending on whether they would otherwise be subject to the £38,700 or £29,000 threshold).  The previous 20% discount to the ‘going rate’ requirement is being removed.

The new Immigration Salary List covers occupations mainly in the following sectors:  agriculture, forestry and fishing, science, the arts, construction, care and animal care.

Skilled Worker supplementary employment

In the case of supplementary employment in the Skilled Worker route, this is being broadened to encompass all occupations eligible for the route.

Consequential changes to other work routes

The salary requirements for other UK work visa routes are also being updated in line with the changes to the latest ONS pay data:

  • For Senior or Specialist Workers in the Global Business Mobility visa route, the general salary threshold is being updated from £45,800 to £48,500, and going rates are being updated using the latest ONS pay data.
  • For the Scale-up Worker visa route, the general salary threshold is being updated from £34,600 to £36,300, and going rates are being updated using the latest ONS pay data.   

For the Creative Worker visa route, the exemption from resident labour market considerations for shortage occupations is being removed. Instead, applicants will need to demonstrate that they can make a unique contribution to creative life in the UK.

How can we help?

We are experienced in helping businesses of all sizes manage the sponsorship and UK work visa application processes across diverse industry sectors, and regionally across England and Scotland.

We can provide comprehensive advice to employers and their HR teams sponsoring foreign nationals as regards the considerations which must be taken into account when hiring overseas nationals in the UK both pre and post the April 2024 changes. 

If you wish to apply for a Sponsor Licence to hire foreign nationals in the UK, we can also assist.

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