Major Skilled Worker visa changes: how it may affect your business or organisation

20th December 2023

Businesses sponsoring lower-paid skilled workers need to take note of the skilled worker visa changes. On 4 December 2023, the Home Secretary unveiled a number of significant changes in a move aimed to reduce legal migration figures. These changes are expected to take effect in Spring 2024 and will impact both employers and individuals.

Skilled Worker Minimum Salary Threshold

The minimum salary threshold for skilled workers will increase from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum, an increase of nearly 50%. Health and care workers will be exempt. Those in other health or teaching roles will also remain unaffected since their salaries are determined based on national pay scales. It should be noted that approximately 50% of the skilled worker visas granted over the last year were allocated to care workers and senior care workers.

The majority of occupation codes (excluding the healthcare and education codes) that are eligible for the skilled worker visa will be impacted by the increase in the minimum salary threshold since the going rate in those occupation codes is less than £38,700 per annum.

Salaries being paid to existing employees will not be impacted immediately. Hopefully transitional measures will apply when their visas are renewed but it is not known yet whether this will be the case.

Currently, skilled workers can be paid less than £26,200 per annum, if they are awarded “tradeable points” for other attributes such as being a new entrant to the labour market or having a job offer for a shortage occupation list role. It is unclear if this will still apply when the minimum salary threshold is raised.

Shortage Occupation list

The Shortage Occupation list will be replaced with a new Immigration Salary list. The Immigration Salary list will remove the 20% discount to the going rate salary for shortage occupation roles. A general salary threshold is likely to be retained.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will in addition review matters and this may mean potential disruption to various industry sectors, that have current shortage occupation roles (for example engineering and technology) to fill. Some occupations may be removed from the list.

Graduate Immigration Route

This route permits international graduates to stay in the UK for an additional two years after completing their studies and work. This route will be reviewed following concerns being raised about potential abuse and roles offered to international graduates.

Dependant visas

Social care workers will not be permitted to bring dependants as from Spring 2024 and this could worsen the chronic skills shortage in the health and care sector.

What next?

Employers should plan ahead for these changes now and consider speeding up recruitment plans and visa applications before the changes. If you require legal advice on the skilled worker visa changes, please contact our immigration lawyers.

If you need legal advice from anything in this article

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