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The United Kingdom, with its robust economy, rich cultural heritage, and people-centric values, has long been a magnet for global mobility. Managing the flow of this international movement has consistently been a priority for the UK.
On December 4th, in the lead-up to 2024 and in response to the unprecedented surge in migration levels experienced in 2023, the Home Office unveiled forthcoming alterations to visa regulations. This announcement marked a significant shift in the nation’s immigration policies, signaling a new chapter in the UK’s approach to handling global mobility trends. The announcement does not provide explicit clarifications on how the policies will be executed, with a lot of details to be further stated by governing authorities.
In October, the UK government introduced another significant alteration affecting various UK visa routes, set to be implemented in 2024. This change was detailed in the Immigration Health Charge Amendment Order 2023, laid before Parliament. The key modification involves an increase in the IHS, anticipated to take effect from January 16, 2024, pending approval by the Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords engaged in a debate on the draft on December 12, 2023, and subsequently approved it on December 18, 2023. The next step in the legislative process is its scheduled debate in the House of Commons, which is set to occur on January 10, 2024.
In this report we seek to provide an outlook on the upcoming migration policy shifts and their impact on global mobility community, highlighting relevant changes for specialists in the Tech sector .
Outlook on the key drivers for introduced visa changes
The United Kingdom has faced an unprecedented rise in immigration since the pandemic, with official estimates showing that net migration soared to 672,000 in the year up to June 2023. This significant increase, much higher than pre-pandemic figures, is in part due to the UK’s humanitarian efforts, welcoming over 80,000 individuals from conflict-affected regions like Ukraine, Hong Kong, and Afghanistan. Additionally, the growth in numbers of overseas students and care workers has also contributed to this surge.
While the government had previously introduced measures in May 2023 to address the increase in legal migration, particularly focusing on students bringing dependants, these efforts have not sufficiently mitigated the current high levels of migration. As a result, the government recognizes the need for more robust and comprehensive policy changes to effectively manage and reduce the overall volume of legal migration into the UK.
Summary of the “five-point plan” to reduce immigration
Key measures can be summarised as:
Broader shift in the UK’s immigration policy
One of the notable trends emerging from the recent visa rule changes is the significant increase in the minimum financial thresholds, affecting both the minimum income required for employees and the requisite family income. While these measures are not directly targeted at the UK’s Global Tech Mobility sector, they inevitably have a ripple effect on it. The heightened financial requirements reflect a broader shift in the UK’s immigration policy, influencing the dynamics of international tech talent migration and the overall landscape of global mobility.
The recent changes announced by the UK Home Office signify a substantial increase in the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas, jumping nearly 50% from £26,200 to £38,700. This adjustment aligns with the government’s goal of prioritizing domestic talent and driving a high-wage, high-skilled economy.
The new higher salary threshold may transform the UK’s skilled worker landscape. It could discourage lower-income overseas workers, shifting focus to higher-paid roles. This might impact sectors that depend on international talent. Employers could respond by investing more in training local talent. Therefore, ambitious international tech specialists need to build strong profiles for the UK’s competitive job market.
Visa categories like the UK Innovator Founder Visa and UK Global Talent Visa offer unique opportunities for global mobility. These visas don’t require proof of funds or a salary contract. To check your eligibility, consider booking a consultation with a Tech Nomads Global Mobility Expert.
Key exemptions have been introduced to support critical sectors. Notably, workers in the Health and Social Care visa route and education workers on national pay scales are exempt. This exemption allows these important sectors to keep recruiting the necessary talent from abroad.
The UK government has clarified that the new policies, including salary threshold changes, won’t affect past cases. Until the rules are updated, the current thresholds remain. The government is working on the specifics, particularly for visa renewals. More information will be available soon, offering clarity for those impacted.
The government has increased the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas. This affects sectors like hospitality, accommodation, and food services. The goal is to balance the labor market, aligning the threshold with median earnings. This step prevents undercutting UK workers with cheaper foreign labor. The change still allows these sectors to hire foreign workers who meet the new criteria.
Furthermore, the rise in threshold from £26,200 to £38,700 may help top-tier specialists. The government encourages employers to attract the ‘brightest and best’. These professionals are well-established in their fields. This new threshold aligns with the UK’s high-skill, high-wage economy goals. It benefits experienced specialists, giving them an advantage in the evolving job market.
The UK is moving from the Shortage Occupation List to an Immigration Salary List. The 20% salary discount is being abolished. This change aims to better address actual skill shortages in the country.
Important IT roles currently on the shortage list might see changes. The revision could lead to fewer classified shortage occupations. This could challenge sectors dependent on this list for easier access to international talent. The need for local training and recruitment may increase as a result.
The UK government has significantly raised the minimum income for family visas to £29,000. This ensures that family migrants can support themselves and don’t burden public funds. It’s part of a wider strategy to manage immigration numbers.
Despite initially setting the family visa minimum income requirement at £38,700, the Home Office, in a swift and significant policy revision just three weeks later, announced a decrease. Starting in Spring 2024, the new minimum income threshold will be £29,000, substantially lower than the original proposal.
This increase could significantly affect skilled workers planning to bring their families to the UK. It will be challenging for those with lower incomes to reunite with their families. However, there are various ways to meet the Minimum Income Requirement, including savings. Provisions for exceptional circumstances also exist to prevent harsh outcomes.
The Graduate visa route is under review. The focus is on aligning it with UK interests, preventing abuse, and maintaining the integrity of UK higher education. The criteria for the Graduate visa might become stricter. This could influence international students’ post-study work opportunities in the UK, especially for those considering work in UK Tech Global Mobility.
The UK has imposed restrictions on dependents for care workers. This addresses non-compliance and exploitation issues in the social care sector. These restrictions could deter potential migrant care workers who wish to bring their families. This policy might lead to a more transient workforce in the care sector.
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a mandatory fee imposed by the UK government on most non-EU immigrants applying for temporary residence in the United Kingdom. Introduced in 2015, the IHS is designed to grant migrants access to the UK’s National Health Service during their stay, similar to UK residents.
The UK government has proposed an increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge, as outlined in the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023. Pending approval by both Houses of Parliament, this increase is scheduled to take effect on or after January 16, 2024.
The amendment will raise the IHS from £624 to £1,035 per year for most applicants, while the fee for under-18s, students, and Youth Mobility Scheme applicants will increase from £470 to £776 per year.
The IHS is mandatory for most migrants seeking healthcare access in the UK, affecting those applying for visas longer than six months outside the UK or any length of time inside the UK. The increase will significantly impact the overall cost of securing a UK visa, especially for those relocating with families, as the IHS is applicable to each accompanying dependent in addition to the main applicant. Employers are generally not required to cover these fees, but those who currently support their workers with visa costs might need to reassess their policies in light of the new fees.
Social and Economic Impact on the UK as Commented on by the UK Home Office
The UK Home Office sees these changes as vital for balancing skilled labour needs with reducing net migration. The measures aim to support the local workforce and ensure migrants contribute significantly to the economy without straining public services. While focusing on a high-skill, high-wage economy, the government also recognizes the need for exceptions in essential services like healthcare and education.
As the UK embarks on implementing its new visa policy changes, careful monitoring and a vigilant approach are essential for all involved in global mobility. The trend indicates tighter thresholds and stricter eligibility criteria for international workers moving to the UK. In this evolving landscape, legal support from migration experts becomes increasingly important.
Tech Nomads emerges as a key ally in this complex relocation scenario. We specialize in navigating international relocation challenges. Established in 2018, Tech Nomads has a track record of successfully relocating talents and businesses. Our expertise in adapting to regulatory changes ensures our clients’ best interests are met.
For individuals and businesses aiming for global expansion, Tech Nomads offers tailored strategies and robust support in UK Tech Global Mobility. To explore your options:
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