It was a busy time in the immigration law field in 2023, and 2024 is shaping up to be just as busy with a number of large-scale changes on the way this year. Here we take a look at the key changes on the horizon for 2024 and what they could mean for businesses.
Home Secretary’s five-point plan
Home Secretary, James Cleverly’s proposed five-point plan will potentially make overseas recruitment considerably more expensive and some businesses may even find themselves priced-out from international talent pools. The plan includes a number of measures designed to reduce the number of eligible visa applicants and increase the costs associated with applying for, obtaining, and renewing a visa.
The key change proposed is the rise in the minimum salary threshold for overseas workers. Under the proposed changes, businesses will only be able to sponsor skilled workers for positions that pay at least £38,700, a near 50% increase on the original £26,200 threshold.
This change, according to Mr Cleverly, is designed to encourage businesses to invest in the UK workforce, while also ensuring that overseas workers have the means to support themselves while living in the UK.
You can read more about the five-point plan here.
Changes for students
In a bid to reduce net migration into the UK further, international students will no longer be able to submit applications to sponsor their dependants unless they are in postgraduate research programmes for courses which started on 1 January 2024. These changes however will not prevent those who were in the UK as dependants prior to the rule changes from extending their leave.
Increases for visa application fees
The Home Office increased visa fees across the board by around 15-20% in October last year. Also, from 16 January 2024, the Immigration Health Surcharge will increase sizably, up from £624 to £1,035 per year.
Changes to the civil penalty regime
It has long been the case that any employer found to be employing workers who do not have the right to work in the UK will be subject to hefty fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. However, in a significant change these fines are set to triple in early 2024 to £60,000 per illegal worker, where an employer cannot establish a statutory excuse against a civil penalty.
It is therefore more important than ever for businesses to ensure they have robust processes in place to correctly check and capture right to work documentation for all potential/ new employees prior to commencing employment.
On-line visa status (eVisa)
The Home Office has been developing a digital immigration system whereby physical documents, including biometric residence permits (BRP) cards, will be phased out completely by the end of 2024. The Home Office has confirmed that those who hold physical documents will need to take steps to register for a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) on-line account in order to update the physical document to an eVisa. They have also confirmed that throughout 2024, they’ll provide updates on when and how to register for a UKVI account.
Changes to UK standard visitor rules
The Government proposed a number of reforms in 2023’s Autumn Statement to broaden and simplify the business visitor rules. The Chancellor also confirmed that further changes to the visitor rules will be rolled out during 2024 and beyond.
As well as expanding the activities you can undertake as a business visitor to the UK, for the first-time remote working will be permitted for workers visiting the UK from overseas, but it must not be the primary reason for the visit and any work that is done remotely should be related to the visitor’s employment overseas.
If recent years are anything to go by, there will likely be further significant changes brought in as the year progresses – especially given the possibility of a general election later this year.