This week Jessica Clough, Chartered Executive in the Employment and Immigration team at Boyes Turner, looks at what further changes we expect to the Immigration system in early 2024, following the Home Secretary’s announcements on 4th December 2023.
1. Increases to the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge from 16 January 2024
From 16 January 2024, the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) will be increasing as follows:
a. From £624/year/person to £1,035/year per person for adults.
b. From £470/year/person to £776/year per person for under 18 year olds.
2. Increases to the minimum salary thresholds
The current minimum salary thresholds for skilled workers are based on a minimum salary of:
a. £26,200/year; or the “going rate” for that role, whichever is higher; and
b. £10.75/ hour
c. Or £20,960/year and £10.75/hour for those in shortage occupations / with tradeable points.
In addition, employers need to ensure salaries remain compliant with National Minimum Wage rates, and should note these will be rising on 1 April 2024 to £11.44/hour for those 21 years and above.
However, following the announcement on 4 December 2023 the minimum salary thresholds for Skilled Workers will be rising to £38,700/year.
Shortage occupations (with the exception of Health and Social Care visas) will no longer benefit from a reduced salary threshold, although it remains to be seen if other tradeable points options (such as “New Entrants”) will still be able to benefit from this.
We do not yet know the date these changes will take effect, but it is expected to occur sometime in Spring 2024.
The new minimum salary thresholds are unlikely to impact those already in sponsored employment, but will affect those sponsored after the changes take effect and, we suspect, those switching or renewing their visa after the new minimum salary takes effect.
Other key immigration changes planned for Spring 2024:
Those on Student visas will no longer be eligible to bring dependents with them (with the exception of those on certain research programmes). Those on Student visas must complete their study course before they are eligible to switch to another visa route.
The Shortage Occupation list will be reviewed by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) with a view to reducing the number of eligible categories. Those remaining categories will no longer benefit from a lower salary threshold (with the exception of Health and Care visas).
Those on Health and Care visas will no longer be eligible to bring dependents with them.
Those Sponsors offering Health and Care visas will need to be CQC regulated.
The Graduate visa route is to be reviewed by the MAC with a view to reduce abuse of this route.
What actions can a sponsor take?
Make sure any relevant stakeholders in the business are aware of the coming changes in good time.
Seek advice from an Immigration Advisor early in the planning process to ensure your recruitment strategy is based on facts not errors.
Plan your recruitment over the next few months to prioritise use of the lower application fees and lower salary thresholds while they are available.
Consider whether your business would prefer to offer a 5 year visa vs shorter visa periods, such as an initial 3 year visa followed by a 2 year visa. Splitting the period of sponsorship in this way can spread the visa costs across the 5 year period rather than incurring it all at the start. However, it is likely the visa renewal will be caught by the new higher salary thresholds, which may make it significantly more expensive over all.
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.
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.
Think strategically about your 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.
As trusted advisers, our team provides guidance for both business and private immigration matters. Our team also works in partnership with a wide range of organisations, from start-up businesses to multinational PLCs, across a wide range of industry sectors. Get in touch today with our Immigration team.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.