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Jessica Clough


This week, Jessica Clough, Chartered Legal Executive in the Employment and Immigration team, looks at the big changes to the Immigration Rules which occurred earlier this month and the impact they are having on sponsoring employers.


Changes to the Immigration Rules

Increases to minimum salary thresholds

As of 4th April 2024, the minimum salary thresholds for new Skilled Worker applications (i.e. those applying for the first time from abroad, or switching to the Skilled Worker category from a non-sponsored route within the UK) increased:

  • From £26,200/year to £38,700/year (or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher); or
  • From £20,960/year to £23,200/year (or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher) for those on the shortage occupation list.

While those extending their visas, changing employer or switching their applications between sponsored routes within the UK after 4th April 2024 are not subject to the new general salary threshold of £38,700/year, they are subject to an updated minimum salary threshold of:

  • £29,000/year (or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher)
  • £23,200/year (or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher) for those on the shortage occupation list.

​However, for those with a Certificate of Sponsorship assigned prior to 4th April 2024, their visa applications will still be processed under the old rules (so the £26,200/year salary threshold will continue to apply). Certificates of Sponsorship are only valid for 3 months, so their visa applications will need to be submitted before the COS expiry date.


The Skilled Occupation Classifications

As of 4th April 2024 there have been a number of changes to the Skilled Occupation Classifications which are eligible for sponsorship. Some job types have now moved job code and some previously popular jobs, such as massage therapists, are no longer eligible for sponsorship (unless extending visa within the UK, with the same employer) as they are no longer considered sufficiently skilled.


The occupation-specific salary thresholds

Other changes to the Skilled Occupation Classifications include a move to the Office for National Statistics 2020 job and earning data (from the 2010 data). This means the salary thresholds for individual job codes have been updated and increased in line with the increases to national pay data.

For new visas, the “going rates” for individual job classifications will now be based on the average salary for the role (also known as the 50th percentile), rather than the 25th percentile of the salary for the role. Those applications made within the UK will benefit from the 25th percentile figures but based on the 2020 data. This means that going rates for the roles may now be higher than the General threshold for the role, and this is something Sponsors will need to bear in mind when considering if the salary they are offering meets the salary thresholds.


The Shortage Occupation List

As of 4th April 2024 the Shortage Occupation List has been rebranded as the Immigration Salary List and contains far fewer job roles than it did previously.


Increases to minimum income requirement for family visas

Outside of the Skilled Worker Route, the minimum income requirement for family visas has increased from £18,000/year to £29,000/year as of 11th April 2024. This will continue to increase in stages over the next year until it reaches the £38,700 salary threshold next spring.


What employers need to know

Sponsorship, especially of new applicants from overseas, will be significantly more expensive due to the higher salary thresholds which will apply. 

Employers will need to be aware of the new salary thresholds which now apply to ensure they do not fall short of the required salaries required under the new rules, which could lead to visa refusals and disappointment.

To avoid this, seek advice from an immigration advisor early in the planning process to ensure your recruitment strategy is based on the latest Immigration Rules.

Employers can seek to share the cost of the visa fees with the employee via use of repayment clauses, clawback clauses (in the event they leave before the end of their visa period), or employee loans. However, these should not be used to reduce their monthly salary below the Skilled Worker minimum salary thresholds, so will not be appropriate in all situations.

In some cases, it may no longer be possible or financially feasible to sponsor new applicants, in which case the employer may wish to consider prioritising retention of existing sponsored staff and/or prioritise recruiting sponsored workers who are already in the UK over those from overseas. 

Employers should also educate existing sponsored workers about the ability to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which can allow those who are eligible to remain in the UK without a sponsor after a sufficient length of residence in the UK.

Finally, employers should think strategically about their use of the Immigration system. The starting point for recruitment should always be the UK talent pool. If there is a shortage of a particular skill set in the UK then the immigration system can be very useful, but should not be the default and ideally should be considered alongside other strategies, such as providing training opportunities and retaining and upskilling your existing workforce.


We can help

If you would like to discuss how the changes will affect your business and workforce planning, please get in touch with Chris Harber, Head of Immigration, at [email protected]. Alternatively, find out more on how we can help you with our business immigration and private immigration services.

Changes to the Immigration Rules

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Immigration law team on

[email protected]
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