Policy explainer Changes to UK immigration rules

In December 2023, in response to record net migration figures, the UK government announced a five-point plan aimed at reducing net migration.

In addition to newly arriving care workers not being permitted to bring dependents with them since 11 March 2024, significant amendments to the UK’s immigration rules came into effect on 4 April 2024.

Increases to the general salary threshold and “going rates” for individual occupations

The Skilled Worker visa now requires the applicant to receive a minimum salary of at least £38,700, up from £26,200.

In addition to being paid at least the general salary threshold, many routes also require that the individual is paid the going rate for their particular role. Where this is different to the general salary threshold, the individual must be paid the higher of the two.

The going rate salary thresholds for individual occupations has increased from the 25th percentile to the 50th percentile.

Replacement of the Shortage Occupation List

The Shortage Occupation List, which included jobs facing serious skills shortages in the UK and allowed sponsors to lower the going rate by 20%, has been replaced by a new Immigration Salary List (ISL).

The new, shorter list includes roles that the government has decided should be offered a discounted salary threshold. The 20% discount to the going rate for roles on the ISL has been removed, although roles on the ISL do benefit from a 20% lower salary threshold.

Exemptions and transitional arrangements

Different thresholds apply to those on national pay scales and those applying for Health and Care visas.

Transitional salaries apply to individuals who had been granted a Skilled Worker visa before 4 April 2024 and who 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 or the going rate for the type of role, the latter of which will be based on the previous 25th percentile calculation.

Existing salary discounts for holders of relevant PhD qualifications and new entrants to the labour market have been retained.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review any ongoing or upcoming recruitment, as well as their wider recruitment strategy and policies, to ensure that they take account of these changes.

Employers should also identify employees who have time-limited permission to work in the UK, assess the potential immigration routes available as each employee approaches the expiry date of their current visa, and plan ahead to support employees with visa applications or considering alternative arrangements.

About the author

image of Alex Hall-Chen

Alex Hall-Chen

Principal Policy Advisor for Sustainability, Employment, and Skills at the IoD

Alex Hall-Chen is Principal Policy Advisor for Sustainability, Employment, and Skills at the IoD. She previously worked in education research and as a Policy Advisor at the CBI. She holds a BA in Politics and Sociology from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in Comparative and International Education from the University of Oxford, and is a school governor for the Thinking Schools Academy Trust.

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