New Skilled Worker Visa Rules: Impact on UK Businesses and Foreign Workers

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The UK government introduced new immigration rules to reduce net migration into the United Kingdom. Among these new immigration rules is the increase in the minimum salary for skilled Worker visas. For this reason, before an applicant is offered a skilled worker visa, they must earn the new minimum income requirement or the relevant Skilled Worker visa going rate for the role (whichever is higher).

UK businesses and foreign workers will face a big challenge because of the implementation of the new changes made to the Skilled Worker visa. In this article, Manchester immigration solicitor is intended to examine the changes made to the UK Skilled Worker visa requirements and what they mean for UK businesses and foreign workers.

What Is a UK Skilled Worker Visa?

The UK Skilled Worker visa is designed for foreign workers offered an eligible role by a licensed UK company. This visa is typically sponsored by the company employing foreign workers. The Skilled Worker visa is the major UK Work visa issued to skilled overseas nationals.

This visa is typically valid for 5 years, however, the holder can apply for an extension before it expires. Alternatively, the visa holder can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to stay in the country permanently after meeting the 5 years residency requirements for the visa.

Latest Immigration News UK

On December 4, 2023, the UK government announced new immigration rules due to an all-time high number of immigrants entering the country. The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, announced a five-point plan to tackle net migration in the country because statistics show that by the year ending December 2022 and June 2023, the net migration in the UK was about 745,000 and 672,000 respectively. 

After the first announcement of the new immigration rules, the UK government released further adjustments to the already announced information on December 21, this time, the rules’ implementation phases. Note that these new immigration rules encourage the entrance of higher-skilled international workers who will significantly help boost the United Kingdom’s economy. 

Also, the new rules encourage employers to recruit a domestic workforce, train, upskill and invest in them. On March 14, 2024, the Home Office declared changes to the immigration rules that were not already known in January 2024. This latest statement detailed significant changes to the UK Partner and Skilled Worker visa. With these new rules, about 300,000 individuals who entered the UK last year could not do so.

Changes to the Skilled Worker Visa Requirements

In a bid to reduce the unsustainable and unfair net migration in the country, from April 4, 2024, the UK government increased the minimum income requirement for a Skilled Worker visa from £26,200 to £38,700 or the going rate for the role. The roles will now be set out in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 2020, and not that of 2010. For this reason, the job occupation codes for some roles will change.

The median (50th percentile) of the 2023 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) will now be used to set the salaries, and no longer the 2021 (25th percentile) ASHE data. For this reason, some roles’ minimum salaries may be above £38,700. However, the Skilled Worker visa going rates for some listed health and education (including Health and Care visas) SOC 2020 will remain at the lower quartile. Additionally, the UK government set out transitional salaries for individuals who currently hold a Skilled Worker visa and would like to extend it or switch employers in the country.

In this regard, the individuals’ salaries will be based on the 25th percentile of the ASHE data and the going rate for the role type or a minimum salary threshold not below £29,000. In most cases, this could amount to a 10 to 20% increase in the minimum income threshold. Note that this transitional package is designed for individuals already holding a Skilled Worker visa before April 4, 2024.

Occupational Code Changes

The new immigration rules reduced the number of occupation codes in the Immigration Salary List, formerly the Shortage Occupation List. Additionally, the 20% reduction in minimum income levels for those still on the list has now been scrapped.

The Home Office has updated roles and merged some occupation codes to align with the difference between SOC 2020 and SOC 2010. For this reason, individuals applying for a new Work visa or seeking to extend an existing one must pay attention to the changed codes and locate their job roles.

Note that special discount salaries exist for individuals who do jobs subject to the national pay scale. Also, new entrants, PhDs and PhDs in Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) subjects will have discounts to their minimum salary threshold.

What the Changes Mean for UK Businesses and Foreign Workers

After the new immigration rules on foreign workers took effect on April 4, 2024, it will be very costly for UK businesses to sponsor foreign workers to come and work for them. The reason is that the cost of Work visas, immigration health surcharge, and minimum income requirements have all risen in 2024. 

Because of this, many UK businesses cannot afford to pay this new minimum income threshold for new migrant workers. Instead, they’ll go for migrant workers already working in the UK via the Skilled Worker route. For this reason, the United Kingdom will become less attractive for highly skilled migrant workers and will make them focus on other countries with more welcoming immigration rules.

Final Thoughts

As the UK government has implemented the new immigration rules to curb net migration, UK businesses and foreign workers will be heavily impacted. Therefore, many businesses, especially start-ups and other businesses that may not afford the new minimum wage will either be forced to hire from the UK talent pool or move their business operations overseas, if they can’t find qualified applicants. UK businesses that want to sponsor foreign workers must seek professional guidance from an immigration lawyer who will explain all the processes and updates on the specific visa type to obtain.

Description: UK businesses and foreign workers will face a big challenge because of the implementation of the new changes made to the Skilled Worker visa.

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