On 4 December 2023, the Home Secretary announced a five-point plan to cut the number of migrant workers and their dependants entering the UK. These changes are expected to come into force in Spring 2024.
The package of measures includes the following:
- Increasing the minimum salary needed for skilled overseas workers from £26,200 to £38,700. It is noted that health and care visas and occupations on national pay scales will be ‘exempt’ from the increase
- Increasing the minimum income for family visas – Proposed incremental increase
to the minimum income requirement for a spousal / partner visa from £18,600 to
£29,000 and then a further increase to around £38,700
- Ban care workers from bringing their family dependants to the UK, and care providers in England can only sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities which are regulated by CQC
- Proposal to end the 20% going rate salary discount for jobs on a shortage occupation list and replace the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with a new Immigration Salary List, which will retain a general threshold discount. ‘Care workers and home carers’ are currently on the SOL and their salary must be a minimum of £20,960 per year or £10.75 per hour
- Review the graduate visa route to ‘prevent abuse’. The Government previouslyannounced a package to cut the number of student visas being issued, and removed the right for internal students to bring dependants to the UK unless they are on postgraduate research courses. The Government also removed the ability for internal students to switch on to work routes before their studies are completed. This will come into force for courses starting in January 2024. It is anticipated the review of the graduate review will be ongoing late into 2024
The Government anticipates that these measures will result in around 300,000 fewer people coming to the UK than have arrived in the last year.
Please note that in a further update on 21 December 2023 the government announced that the increase to the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers will not apply to those who are already on the skilled worker route and those who get their applications in prior to the proposed changes coming into effect.
As a result of the proposed package, some employers may find it more difficult to bring in overseas staff. It is anticipated that lower wage industries, such as the health and social care sector, will be significantly impacted, which is a cause for concern particularly given the health and social care sector relies heavily on overseas staff to make up a large proportion of its workforce.
What should sponsors be doing?
- Review all of your sponsored roles and assess how the proposed changes may impact upon your business. For example, if future recruits from overseas cannot bring their dependants, do you think this will deter them from coming to the UK?
- Speak with and support your sponsored workers. The announcement will have caused concern to your sponsored workers. Distributing information internally (even if you don’t have all of the answers) can prove highly effective and help to prevent misunderstandings
- If you have any workers you are considering sponsoring in the next six months, you may wish to bring these plans forward (on the basis that it is possible that those already on the skilled worker visa will remain on the current regime and not the new rules)
- Consider ways in which you may wish to off-set the new costs (for example, by requiring employees to pay back certain immigration costs if they leave within a certain period). Please note, immigration clawbacks are extremely high risk and specific advice should be taken
- Stay up to date with any new developments and, if required, take legal advice
If you have any queries or are in need of specific advice in relation to sponsor licences or any Employment law query, please contact a member of the AfterAthena team (part of the Napthens Group) who are able to offer 30 minutes of free advice to QCS members.