A world of change for immigration law in the UK for 2024

With net migration at record levels in the UK, the UK Government have proposed various measures to curb immigration abuse and cut net migration.
29 Apr 24 | United Kingdom
Field Seymour Parkes

There was a significant increase in the cost of visa application fees last year with many routes up by 20% together with a hike in the charge for access to the National Health Service which rose from £624 to £1,035 earlier this year. The increase in visa costs combined with proposed restrictions to certain visa routes aims to reduce net migration ahead of the election campaign due this year.

More recently, the Home Secretary set out a five-point plan aiming to reduce the number of migrants eligible to come to the UK impacting work, family, and student visa routes.

The measures will significantly impact the recruitment of skilled workers when the minimum salary threshold increases from £26,200 to £38,700 on 4 April 2024. Employers must consider whether recruiting migrants and paying higher salaries compared with the average national workforce salary is a viable option, coupled with the increasing cost of visa fees.  Many employers who continue to recruit overseas talent, look to share the cost burden by implementing clawback provisions or repayment clause in their worker’s contracts.

The UK relies heavily on migrant workers in the Health and Care sector, who already have a special visa with reduced fees. The Health and Care visa will be exempt from the new salary threshold, but additional restrictions will be imposed from March 2024 to prevent such visa holders bringing their family members to the UK (without their own visa).

There has been additional scrutiny in the care sector because of the volume of migrants granted visas in the past year.  As a result, all care firms will be expected to register with the Care Quality Commission regardless of whether they are undertaking regulated activities from March 2024.

However, the Government recognise, there continues to be a shortage of carers in the UK, therefore the carer role will continue to be recognised in a new Immigration Salary List, replacing the old Shortage Occupation List.  The Immigration Salary List is a list of 23 occupations in shortage in the UK, to include carers, bricklayers, and some construction works. The salary threshold will increase considerably from £20,960 to £30,960 in line with proposals for other work visas.

The family visas will also see an increase in the salary threshold from £16,800 to £29,000 in April then rising to £38,700 in line with the skilled worker salary threshold.

Students who were previously able to bring family members as dependents are no longer permitted to do so.  The government believe this route was being used for students’ families to come to the UK as economic workers circumvent the other worker visa routes.

Finaly, the Government have asked for a review of the Graduate route which was reintroduced in July 2021 after closing its predecessor in 2012.  The graduate route is a non-sponsored option for students to work in the UK for up to 3 years after their studies.  The Government wishes to determine if the route is meeting its objective of attracting the best and brightest students and not being abused.

The package of measures are designed to reduce eligibility and would mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would now not be eligible for entry under the new rules.

A general election has to be held by 28 January 2025 and is likely to take place in 2024.  Immigration remains a hot political topic as different parties announce their plans trying to win support ahead of the election.

Our immigration team would be happy to discuss your inbound immigration needs to the UK.  Please get in touch at [email protected].

Author: Field Seymour Parkes – Head of Immigration, Imelda Reddington and Solicitor Victoria Ounsworth