The new legal migration rules will take effect a few months into 2024.
The British government announced on 30 January 2024 the timeline for implementing the significant changes in legal migration measures.
From 11 March, health and care workers can no longer bring dependants to the country.
Care providers who plan to sponsor migrant workers must also register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) from that date and beyond.
On 14 March, the government will remove the 20 percent discount for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
The minimum income requirement (MIR) for skilled workers will increase from £26,200 to £38,700 on 4 April.
For family visa applicants, the first phase for the hike in the MIR to £29,000 will be implemented on 11 April.
The adjustment on student visa rules came into force at the beginning of January 2024.
Since then, only postgraduate research students and those enrolled in government-funded scholarship courses can bring dependants to the UK.
Home Office restates its commitment to cutting net migration
In December 2023, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly announced a major reform package for legal migration rules.
The reform package includes tightening the rules on care workers and skilled workers.
It also ensures that people can support the family members they bring over.
“I’ve been clear that migration is too high, and we must get back to sustainable levels,” Cleverly said in a statement.
He added, “It is a firm approach, but a fair one, and gives those affected time to prepare whilst ensuring that migration comes down.”
“We are delivering the change we promised and which they expect, lifting pressure on public services and protecting British workers with the utmost urgency,” Cleverly stressed.
The new legal migration rules are designed to prevent abuse of the migration system.
They aim to achieve the largest-ever reduction in unsustainable and unfair net migration levels.
It is estimated that the new policies will cut net migration by 300,000.
More changes to legal migration rules throughout the year
In early April, the SOL will be replaced by the Salary Immigration List (SIL) with no discount.
This is following the recommendation of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
The committee will advise the government on which occupations should be temporarily added to the SIL.
Additionally, the MAC will also review the graduate visa, ensuring it serves its purpose and is not abused.
The MIR for family visas will continue to rise to the same level as the salary threshold of skilled workers.
However, the government will do so in stages to give predictability to families.
By early 2025, the salary threshold for family visa applicants will have increased to £38,700.
This ensures they only bring dependants they can support to the UK.
The new legal migration measures are not retroactive
Many of these changes will not be enforced retroactively and will only affect new applications.
The new salary threshold for family visas will only apply to first-time applicants.
Those renewing or applying for permanent residency applications will not be affected. The United Kingdom Home Office released a timeline for when the new legal migration policies will take effect.
However, individuals already in the UK on a different route switching to the five-year partner route will be subject to the new income requirement.
Skilled worker visa applications submitted before the rule change will also not be subject to the new higher salary threshold.
This also applies to applications for changing employment, extending, or settling.
However, the government expects the workers’ pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers.
In their next application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle, workers must meet the latest pay data at the 25th percentile.
Health and care workers already in the UK will be allowed to remain with their dependants.
This will also apply to workers extending, changing employers, and seeking to settle.
Furthermore, healthcare workers already in the UK before the change and who have not yet brought dependants will be allowed to do so under their sponsorship.
UK’s rising net migration levels
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) projects that the UK population will increase by 6.6 million between 2021 and 2036.
It means the country’s population is set to hit 73.7 million by 2036, up from 67 million in 2021.
This includes 541,000 more births than deaths and net international migration of 6.1 million people.
“This growth is faster than in the 2020-based projections released in January 2023, with the projected increase mainly resulting from international migration,” read the ONBS press release.
ONS arrived at the number assuming a long-term net international migration level of 315,000 per year from mid-2028 onwards.
The long-term net migration number is based on expert views and the latest 10-year-long data, but actual levels may still vary.
As of June 2023, the UK net migration number, or the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country, is 672,000.
It hit a record level of 745,000 in the year ending December 2022.