Following the announcement a few weeks ago that the UK’s net migration figures had hit a record high of 745,000 for the year to December 2022, there was significant pressure on the UK Government to take urgent steps and toughen their stance on immigration.
With the likelihood of a UK general election taking place at some point next year, it was no surprise the Government would soon ramp up its stance on the UK’s immigration framework; a topic which is often seen as a key issue ahead of any general election.
Following suggestions of strong action being demanded from sections of the Conservative party, the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, yesterday announced a five point plan which the Government says will reduce net migrant by approximately 300,000.
- Care workers will no longer be able to bring dependants (spouse/civil partners/unmarried partners and children under 18) to the UK. Furthermore, care providers wishing to sponsor overseas care workers must be regulated by the Care Quality Commission
- The minimum salary threshold for workers under the Skilled Worker visa route will increase from £26,200 per year to £38,700 per year. Applications under the Health and Care visa route will be exempt from the new minimum threshold.
- The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) 20% salary discount will be scrapped. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has also been asked to review the Shortage Occupation List with the intention to simplify and shorten the current list.
- The minimum income threshold for family visas will increase from the current rate of £18,600 to £38,700, which will bring it in line with the new Skilled Worker minimum salary rate.
- The MAC has also been asked to review the Graduate route.
All of the above, except 5, will take effect from Spring 2024.
Should the Government move ahead with the above, 2024 will see a number of significant changes which will toughen the UK’s immigration system. The Government has already confirmed the Immigration Health Surcharge will be increasing to £1,035 per year from as early as 16th January 2024 and those entering on a student visa will no longer be able to bring dependants to the UK from the beginning of the year (unless those that are on a post-graduate course that are designed as essential research).
This latest announcement will no doubt be seen as a significant blow to the recruitment of workers across certain sectors; in particular, construction, hospitality, health and care. With certain Western economies struggling to identify talent needed to spur growth some have recently announced steps to simply their immigration rules for the future (i.e. Germany and Canada).
SMEs and those operating within sectors facing acute labour shortages will certainly be troubled with the rising costs and high salary thresholds required to sponsor foreign workers as they continue to struggle to recruit from within the UK labour market.
Whilst we still await further details of the exact commencement date and the finer details, businesses with planned or upcoming hires should seek to expedite those recruitment plans within the next 3 months.
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