Immigration minister reveals dates when major changes to legal migration announced in December come into force
Image credit: UK GovernmentPursglove revealed the dates when the changes will take effect and when two new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules will be laid.
The increase in the earnings threshold to £38,700 for those arriving on the Skilled Worker visa route will come into force from 4 April 2024.
The rise in the minimum income requirement for family/spouse visas to £29,000 comes into force on 11 April 2024.
The removal in the right for care workers and senior care workers to bring dependants to the UK will come into force on 11 March 2024.
A statement of changes to the Immigration Rules will be laid on 19 February for the care worker changes and on 14 March for the skilled worker and family/spouse visa changes.
The full statement follows below:
Statement made by
The Minister of State for Legal Migration and the Border
Our points-based immigration system allows us to control who comes to the UK to work, study and visit. It enables the Government to prioritise the skills and talent we need to help our economy grow and support our NHS, while encouraging investment in, and protecting, our resident workforce. On 4 December 2023, the Government announced a major package of measures to curb immigration abuse and further reduce net migration.
Since the pandemic, the UK has experienced unprecedented levels of immigration. This is in large part due to growth in humanitarian routes like Ukraine, Hong Kong and Afghanistan, as well as growth in health and social care visas, and students. The latest official estimates show that net migration in the year to June 2023 was 672,000 - up significantly on pre-pandemic volumes, but lower than the estimated 745,000 who came in the year to December 2022. The Government is clear that this level of net migration is too high and must come down swiftly to avoid unsustainable pressure on public services and housing.
In May 2023, the Government took decisive action to prevent students from using the student route to access work prior to completion of their studies and arrest the substantial rise in the number of students bringing dependants to the UK. These reforms have been implemented. The ability for students to switch out of the student route early ended on 17 July 2023 and from 1 January 2024, student visa holders can only bring dependants if they are studying for a multi-year post-graduate research degree.
The measures announced in May and December 2023 mean that around 300,000 people who were eligible to come to the UK last year would not be able to do so in future.
Good progress has been made on implementing the package announced on 4 December:
• On 19 February, we intend to lay Immigration Rules which will remove the right for care workers and senior care workers to bring dependants, which will come into force on 11 March 2024. The rules will ensure that care providers in England will only be able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This will help tackle the abuse of the Health and Care Visa route that we have seen and ensure that those coming through this route genuinely support the social care system.
• On 14 March, we intend to lay Immigration Rules to increase the earnings thresholds for those arriving on the Skilled Worker route, with the minimum threshold rising by 48% from £26,200 to £38,700. These changes will come into force from 4 April and will ensure that our immigration system is focused on attracting skilled, highly paid talent from around the world. Those coming on the Health and Care Visa route will be exempted from this specific threshold so we can continue to bring the healthcare workers that our care sector and NHS need. We are also exempting workers on national payscale occupations.
• On 17 January we commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a rapid review of the Shortage Occupation List to inform which occupations should be temporarily added to an Immigration Salary List from early April. The Immigration Rules we intend to lay on 14 March will remove the 20% going rate discount for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List, as well as temporarily add any occupations as recommended by the MAC to the new Immigration Salary List.
• On Family visas, we will bring this in line with the new minimum general salary threshold for a Skilled Worker of £38,700. We will raise the minimum income for Family visas incrementally, in stages, to give predictability to families. The Immigration Rules we intend to lay on 14 March will set out that from 11 April we will raise the threshold to £29,000 - that is the 25th percentile of earnings for jobs which are eligible for Skilled Worker visas. We will incrementally increase the threshold to the 40th percentile (currently £34,500), and finally to the 50th percentile (currently £38,700, and the level at which the General Skilled Worker threshold is set) by early 2025.
This major package of measures sits alongside our major transformation of the border and immigration system to deliver a simple, quick, digital end-to end customer journey, while strengthening border security.
A key part of this transformation is the introduction of the UK's Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme. ETAs are a new requirement for passengers visiting or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have any other UK immigration status before travelling. The scheme will increase our knowledge about people in advance of travel, which will not only make the UK safer, but help deliver our ambition to increase automation of passenger clearance at the border.
The scheme is being introduced in a phased manner, on a nationality-by-nationality basis. As of November 2023, it is now a requirement for nationals of Qatar to obtain an ETA prior to travel to the UK. On 1 February 2024 the scheme will be extended to the remaining Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE – and Jordan. Other nationalities will be added to the scheme later this year.
All of the above changes show that we welcome those who are here to contribute their skills and talents to the UK, but it is not a right to come here. Those who come must be willing to contribute to our country. In keeping with this, those who use and benefit from our public services, such as the NHS, should make a sufficient financial contribution towards the cost of those services. Legislation has been passed this month to enable the Immigration Health Surcharge to be raised by 66% to £1,035, in respect of applications made on or after 06 February 2024. The new rate reflects the increases in healthcare expenditure and better reflects NHS service use by payers, remembering that payment of the charge provides near comprehensive access to our health service. The level of IHS will be kept under regular review to ensure it covers the cost of treating IHS payers.
We continue to keep all aspects of our immigration and border system under review to ensure it works for the British people and our economy.