A number of significant changes have been introduced in the immigration space, designed to restrict and reduce who can come to the UK. These changes have been introduced in an effort to reduce the net migration figures and are far-reaching, including a number of key takeaways for employers, most notably:

  • An increase in the minimum salary rates for Skilled Workers – the general minimum salary threshold will increase from a minimum of £26,200 to £38,700 per annum from 4 April 2024.
  • For Senior or Specialist Workers (previously known as Intra-company transferees) where an employee of a group company is transferring to a UK group company, the general salary threshold is rising from £45,800 to £48,500.
  • For Graduate Trainees – (those applying to transfer from an overseas group company to work at a UK group company as part of a structured graduate programme), the general salary threshold is being increased from £24,220 to £25,410.

These changes are to be introduced and active from 4 April 2024. In light of these rule changes, employers should submit any Skilled Worker applications as soon as possible and before the beginning of April. In order to avoid salary increases, the Certificate of Sponsorship will have to be assigned (issued) before 4 April 2024.

Note, however, that the increase to the minimum salary threshold will not apply to those who are already here on the Skilled Worker route. For example, those applying to change employment, extend their stay or for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

In conjunction with the above, the standard Codes of Practice, which describe the jobs for which Certificates of Sponsorship (work permits) can be issued, are being revised, meaning that most, if not all, occupations will require a higher salary minimum than previously. 

What do employers need to consider?

Apply before the changes

If the candidate for whom a sponsor is applying for a CoS does not meet the new increased salary threshold, try to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of the older and lower salary rates.  An update to the Home Office guidance, which was made on 19 March, gives essential information on the deadline for assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship. In order for the application to proceed under the current rules (with the lower salary thresholds), the deadline for assigning a CoS under the current rules is 7pm on Tuesday 2 April, because the online portal – the Sponsorship Management System – will be unavailable from 7 pm on 2 April to 9 am on 4 April.  During that period, employers will be unable to assign any CoS, apply for any defined CoS to be submitted from outside the UK, or ask for any additional applications to be submitted inside the UK.  So consider the deadline to be 2 April 2024 and ensure all submissions are made by then

Occupation codes

Make sure you have a detailed job description and think carefully about which Code will apply – choice of occupation codes will be more important

Consider pay rises

Be careful about raising pay on a one-off basis in order to meet the minimum salary requirements, as in some cases, it will not be possible to sponsor people on lower paid roles which can be sponsored under the current rules. Again, it is important to take advice as to which jobs qualify under the Codes and take advice if in doubt.

New entrants

Those under 26 years old, or whose most recent visa was a Student or Graduate visa, or those working towards a professional qualification in a regulated profession can take advantage of a reduced salary threshold of £30,960 per year. This allows them to spend a maximum of 4 years on this income, including any time spent here under the Graduate route.  However, to extend their visa beyond that period, they must be paid the full going rate

Family visas

From 11 April 2024 individuals applying as partners under the Family Route will be expected to satisfy a new minimum income requirement in order to qualify to come to the UK in this capacity.  As of 11 April 2024 this minimum income requirement will increase from £18,600 p.a. to £29,000 p.a.  However, there will no longer be an additional income requirement where children are applying as well.

This minimum income requirement will increase again at some point, though the government has not confirmed exactly when – to £34,500 p.a. and then to £38,700 p.a. expected during early 2025. The exact dates of these changes are not as yet known.

Note that if an applicant is relying on cash savings to meet the income requirement, as opposed to earned income, the minimum is rising from £62,500 to £88,500.

The increases will impact individuals making a UK visa application as a spouse or partner on and after 11 April 2024.  New rules relating to minimum income will not apply to people who already have a partner/spouse visa, and who apply before 11 April 2024 and who wish to extend their permission to remain in the UK.  Similarly, individuals who applied for a fiancé visa before the increase and switch to a spouse visa after they are married will not be affected. They can continue to rely on the rules in place currently (pre-11 April 2024) and will need to show an annual income of at least £18,600, covering at least the previous 6 months, or cash savings of £62,500 in order to meet the requirements and sponsor their partner/spouse to come to the UK.  Those applying for indefinite leave to remain, or permanent residence in the UK, based on residence over the previous five years will also be assessed against the minimum income requirement of £18,600, provided the individual was on this five year route before 11 April 2024.

Key points to remember

  • When making the initial visa application from outside the UK as a spouse or partner, the Immigration Rules provide that the minimum income requirement can only be satisfied by the sponsor’s (ie, the British Citizen spouse or partner) income.
  • That minimum income requirement can only be met by relying on specified sources of income – take advice as to what you can and cannot use.
  • There is scope for the Home Office to exercise flexibility in certain circumstances  – such as if a visa refusal would breach an applicant and sponsor’s human rights  – however this is only applied sparingly, and if it is applied, the sponsor would then have to demonstrate that they have ‘adequate maintenance’ in place. What this demonstrates is the Home office exercising discretion based on an applicant’s particular circumstances.
  • Make any applications as soon as possible (and before 2 April) to avoid being caught by the changes.

If you require advice relating to any of the issues discussed in this article, please get in touch with our immigration lawyers.


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