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Key Takeaways: What You Need to Know About the 2024 UK Immigration Law Changes

06 March 2024
Key Takeaways: What You Need to Know About the 2024 UK Immigration Law Changes

The UK’s immigration landscape has undergone significant changes in 2024, bringing new considerations for employers and individuals seeking to work or live in the country.  From increased salary thresholds to changes in dependent visas, understanding these updates is crucial for navigating the evolving immigration system.

Major Changes in the UK Immigration Law in 2024

Skilled Worker Visa:

  • Before: The minimum annual salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas stood at £26,200.
  • After: This threshold  will increase significantly to £38,700 per year, effective April 4th, 2024. Additionally, individual “going rate” thresholds for specific occupations will also rise in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs in 2024.
  • Impact: This substantial increase may make it more challenging for certain skilled workers to qualify, potentially impacting industries like technology and healthcare. Businesses may need to adjust their recruitment strategies and potentially offer higher salaries to attract eligible candidates. Those already on the Skilled work route, and applications made before the rules change, will not be subject to the new £38,700 salary threshold when they change employment, extend, or settle. However the Home Office will expect that their salary increases in line with resident workers, when they make an application to extend their stay or settle.

Spouse Visa:

  • Before: The minimum income requirement for sponsoring a partner was set at £18,600 annually.
  • After: This requirement will now see a phased increase:
    • April 11th, 2024: The minimum income requirement rises to £29,000.
    • Later in 2024 (specific date yet to be confirmed): A further increase to around £34,500 is expected.
    • Early 2025: The final increase will bring the minimum income requirement to around £38,700.
  • Impact: This phased increase may pose challenges for couples where the UK partner does not earn a high salary, potentially leading to difficulties in reuniting families. However, individuals who are already on the 5 year partner route before the minimum income requirement is increased and who wish to apply for an extension to stay will continue to be assessed against teh £18600 income requirement. Same applies to those applying for a partner visa before 11 April 2024.

Student Visa:

  • Before: Most international students had the option to bring their dependants (partners or children under the age of 18 years old) to the UK.
  • After: As of January 1st, 2024, most students can no longer bring dependants unless they are enrolled in higher-level degrees (Master’s or PhD).
  • Impact: This change is likely to significantly affect families where a person from the family is planning to study in the UK together, potentially forcing them to reconsider their study plans or separate during their studies.

Additional Changes:

  • Shortage Occupation List (SOL): The minimum salary threshold for visas in SOL occupations will no longer benefit from a 20% discount, effective April 4th, 2024.
  • Right to Work Fines: Significantly increased from £15,000 to £45,000 per illegal worker, effective January 22nd, 2024. This underscores the importance of employers conducting thorough right-to-work checks for all employees.
  • Immigration Health Surcharge: Increased by 66% on February 6th, 2024, impacting the cost of sponsoring foreign workers.
  • Care Worker Visas: New social care workers will no longer be eligible to bring dependants on their visas, starting March 11th, 2024.
  • Sponsor Licences: The requirement to renew sponsor licences every four years will be removed on April 6th, 2024, simplifying the sponsorship process for businesses.
  • Graduate Route: Changes are pending for the Graduate Route visa for international graduates. Further details are awaited.

How have UK Immigration Law changes impacted Employers?

The 2024 immigration law changes pose several challenges and implications for UK employers:

  • Increased Recruitment Costs:  The higher salary thresholds and IHS fees directly increase the cost of sponsoring skilled foreign workers.
  • Talent Pool Restrictions:  The changes potentially reduce the pool of eligible candidates, especially for lower-paid skilled roles that don’t meet the new salary requirements.
  • Administrative Burden: Employers need to carefully navigate the revised eligibility criteria and stay updated on the evolving regulations.
  • Compliance Risks: The heightened penalties for illegal working underscore the importance of robust right-to-work checks and adherence to immigration law.

What actions to UK Employers need to take to mitigate the impact of UK Immigration Law changes

To mitigate the impact of these changes, employers should consider the following:

  • Review the Current Workforce:  Assess at least annually how many sponsored employees will be required
  • Budgeting and Forecasting: Revise budgets to account for the increased costs associated with sponsoring foreign workers.
  • Explore Alternative Immigration Routes:  Investigate other visa categories that may be suitable for certain roles, such as the Graduate visa or the Scale-up visa.
  • Upskill Domestic Workforce:  Consider investing in training and development programs to upskill your domestic workforce.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Get legal advice as soon as you can to obtain immigration advice in order to develop a comprehensive strategy tailored to your specific workforce needs and ensure full compliance with the revised regulations.

Adapting and Moving Forward

These changes necessitate a proactive approach from both individuals and businesses. Staying updated on the latest regulations and seeking professional guidance from immigration specialists can ensure compliance.

The team of experienced immigration experts at Davenport Solicitors helps you understand the complexities of the UK immigration system. We offer tailored advice and comprehensive support for a wide range of visa applications, ensuring compliance with the latest regulations and maximising your chances of success.

Contact us today at +44 020 7903 6888 or visit www.davenportsolicitors.com to book a consultation with us.

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