The United Kingdom (UK) government will implement the new immigration regulations throughout 2024.
Announced in December 2023, the new rules are the government’s response to curb the increasing net migration in the country.
Official statistics from last year showed that net migration had reached a record high of 745,000 in 2022.
The immigration policy changes will affect health and care workers and individuals applying for family visas and Skilled Worker visas.
The British government expects the new rules to reduce the number of people immigrating to the country by around 300,000 annually.
More details on the upcoming changes in immigration policies
The British government released further information on the upcoming changes amidst criticism.
This is to provide clarity for employers and migrants currently in the UK who may be affected by the changes.
Below are the details on each policy change, including when it would take effect.
Health and care workers already in the UK may be allowed to stay with their dependants.
Health and care workers will no longer be allowed to bring their dependants with them to the UK.
In the year ending September 2023, 101,000 Health and Care Worker visas were issued to health and care workers. Additionally, an estimated 120,000 visas were granted to their dependants.
The Home Office clarifies that health and care workers already in the UK will be allowed to remain with their dependants.
This will also apply to those extending, changing employers, and seeking settlement.
Additionally, health and care workers already in the UK before the rule change and who have not brought dependants yet will be allowed to bring them during their sponsorship.
Care providers sponsoring non-regulated activities may continue but will not be allowed to hire new workers.
Care providers in England who wish to sponsor foreign health and care workers must be regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Still, the Home Office will allow care providers to continue to sponsor workers in exclusively non-regulated activities before the policy is amended. These workers’ visa extensions may also be granted.
However, care providers will no longer be allowed to hire new workers for such non-regulated activities.
The immigration health surcharge (IHS) will not increase before 31 January.
Migrants will have to pay more to access the state-run National Health Service (NHS) to ensure that public services are not exploited.
The surcharge for adults will increase from £624 to £1,035 annually. Children, students, their dependants, and applicants for the Youth Mobility Scheme will increase from £470 to £776 per year.
The UK government initially announced the hike in the IHS payments in July 2023, slated for enactment on 16 January 2024. This is expected to be delayed.
The implementation date for the increase in IHS payments is set for January 31 at the earliest.
The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is now the Immigration Salary List (ISL).
The British government will reform the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and remove the 20% discount on salaries for shortage occupations. The SOL will be renamed the Immigration Salary List (ISL).
Throughout January 2024, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will review which current SOL jobs should remain on the list in line with the new salary thresholds.
The current SOL will remain in place until the new salary thresholds are implemented in late Spring.
The Graduate visa route review will continue until late 2024
Like the shortage occupation list, the MAC will also look into the Graduate route. This work is expected to go on until later in the year.
The UK’s Graduate visa route should work in the best interests and priorities of the UK.
It should also maintain the integrity and quality of the UK’s higher education system.
Higher minimum salary threshold for Skilled Workers and family visa applicants
The Home Office had stressed that the new higher minimum income requirement (MIR) would not be retroactively implemented.
The minimum salary threshold for Skilled Workers is set to increase from £18,600 to £38,700 in spring 2024.
Health and care workers and roles on national pay scales, such as teachers, are exempted from this rule change.
On the other hand, the salary income threshold for family visas will be increased in stages. The final amount of £38,700 will come into effect by late 2025.
Skilled workers already in the UK and those who applied before the rule change do not need to meet the new salary threshold when changing jobs, extending, or settling.
However, migrant workers’ pay progression is expected to align with resident workers.
They will be subject to the latest pay data at the 25th percentile when they apply for changes or extensions.
The new salary threshold for family visas will also only affect first-time applicants.
Individuals already on the family visa route, renewing, or applying for permanent residency will follow the current MIR.
However, individuals switching routes must follow the new income salary threshold.