Immigration rule changes April 2024

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On 14 March 2024 important changes to the Immigration Rules were presented to Parliament.

The most significant of the changes is the increase to the Skilled Worker minimum salary levels which will apply from 4 April 2024. At that point employers will have to take into account when making an application that the minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa application will rise to the higher of £38,700 or the going rate for that type of role.

The calculation of the ‘going rate’ will also change as there will be a new reference point, which in some cases may lead to the going rate being even higher than the increased minimum salary level.

Employers will need to review these new salaries to ensure that it is viable for employees to meet the relevant minimum salary levels at the point they plan to submit their application.

There will be transitional provisions in place which will apply to individuals who already hold a Skilled Worker visa and apply to extend their permission or to change employers in the UK. For these individuals, the minimum salary threshold will be the higher of £29,000 (up from £26,200) or the going rate for the type of role.

The transitional provisions will apply for applications made by individuals granted their Skilled Worker visa before 4 April 2024, and who are applying before 4 April 2030.

The Shortage Occupation List is to also be removed and replaced by a new Immigration Salary List, which is aimed at making it clearer that the entries on the list are those where the Government considers it sensible to offer a discounted salary threshold, rather than being a list of all occupations experiencing labour shortages.

As with the previous list, included occupations have a 20% discount to the general salary threshold (to £30,960 or £23,200, depending on whether they would otherwise be subject to the £38,700 or £29,000 threshold); however, the previous 20% discount to the going rate requirement is being removed.

Aside from the transitional provisions, many employers will be relieved that the ‘new entrant’ salary discount is being retained for those applying for a Skilled Worker visa in certain cases (including students switching to Skilled Worker, applicants under 26 years old, and those working towards full registration or chartered status in their profession).

This new entrant discount reduces the Skilled Worker minimum salary threshold to the higher of £30,960 per year or 70% of the going rate for the applicable occupation code. However, the thresholds are significantly higher than the pre 4 April 2024 threshold of £20,960 which could lead to many graduate roles being no longer eligible for sponsorship.

The discount is also subject to a time limit in that it can only apply for a maximum of four years which will include any time spent on a Graduate visa. At the end of the four year period, the individual will need to meet the higher salary thresholds.

In any settlement applications it will have to be shown that the full going rate is being paid.

Intra-company transfers are also impacted. The salary threshold for this route will also increase from £45,800 to £48,500 from 4 April 2024, or the updated occupation code going rate salary if higher. Transitional arrangements are in place in the same way as for Skilled Workers.

Unlike with the Skilled Worker route, guaranteed allowances and company provided accommodation allowances can be included in the salary figure to meet the minimum salary threshold.

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