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Updates on UK Immigration Rules 2024

Table of Contents


  • Overview of the UK's Immigration Policy Evolution
  • The Importance of Immigration Policy Updates in 2024

Background and Recent Changes in UK Immigration Rules

  • Historical Context of Immigration Policies
  • Overview of Changes Prior to 2024

Key Changes in Immigration Rules for 2024

  • Introduction to 2024 Updates

Skilled Worker Visas

  • Increase in Salary Threshold
  • Exemptions and Implications for Employers and Immigrants

Family-Based Visas

  • Changes in Minimum Income Requirement
  • Phased Increases and Impact on Families

International Students

  • Restrictions on Dependent Visas
  • Review of the Graduate Route
  • Potential Impact on Student Enrolment and Graduate Employment

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Increase

  • New Rates and Financial Implications for Visa Applicants

Implications of Immigration Policy Changes

  • Impact on Potential Immigrants and Families
  • Consequences for International Students
  • Effects on Businesses and the UK Economy

Addressing Skills Shortages and Innovation Challenges

  • Strategies for Enhancing Domestic Innovation Skills
  • Collaborative Efforts with Universities and Businesses

Impact on Individuals and Businesses

  • Challenges for Potential Immigrants
  • Implications for Students and Higher Education
  • Economic Impact and Business Considerations

Future Immigration Trends and Projections

  • Anticipated Developments in Immigration Patterns
  • Strategic Planning for Businesses and Individuals

Exploring UK Relocation Options

  • Services Offered by Tech Nomads Global Mobility

The United Kingdom's immigration policy has always been a subject of significant national interest, reflecting the country's evolving economic needs, security concerns, and its response to global migration trends. As we enter 2024, the UK government has announced a series of updates to its immigration rules, marking a pivotal shift in its approach to managing the flow of people into the country. These changes are not merely administrative adjustments but are emblematic of a broader strategy aimed at transforming the UK's immigration landscape in response to current challenges and opportunities.

Background and Previous Changes in the UK Immigration Rules

The period following the UK's decision to leave the European Union in 2016 saw a reevaluation of immigration policies to adapt to the new realities of Brexit, the economic imperatives of a post-pandemic recovery, and the evolving needs of the British labor market. These factors, combined with public sentiment on immigration, have led to a series of adjustments aimed at creating a more controlled and skill-focused immigration system.

Key Statistics and Previous Policy Adjustments

In the years leading up to 2024, the UK witnessed fluctuating net migration figures, with significant peaks and troughs reflecting the changing political, economic, and social landscapes. For instance, the introduction of the points-based immigration system in January 2021 marked a departure from the EU freedom of movement, signaling a shift towards a system that prioritizes skills and qualifications over nationality. This system was designed to treat EU and non-EU citizens equally, focusing on attracting people who could contribute to the UK's economy.

Another notable adjustment was the introduction of the Skilled Worker Visa, replacing the Tier 2 (General) work visa, making it easier for employers to sponsor qualified workers from around the globe. The UK also launched the Global Talent Visa to attract leaders and potential leaders in academia, research, arts, and technology. These changes were part of a broader effort to make the UK a magnet for global talent in key sectors.

Government Objectives with the New Changes

The overarching objective of the UK government's 2024 immigration rule updates is to reduce net migration figures, aligning with public concerns and the government's commitment to manage and control immigration more effectively. This objective is rooted in the belief that while immigration has positive effects on the economy and cultural diversity, it must be sustainable and managed to ensure it does not strain public services, housing, and community cohesion.

The desire to reduce net migration figures is accompanied by a focus on attracting individuals who can fill skill shortages in the UK and contribute to the economy. The government aims to ensure that the immigration system supports the UK's strategic economic goals, such as bolstering the National Health Service (NHS), supporting the technology sector, and ensuring that industries such as construction and agriculture have access to the necessary workforce.

By fine-tuning the immigration system, the government seeks to achieve a balance between maintaining control over who comes to the country and ensuring that the UK remains an attractive destination for international talent. The 2024 updates reflect an approach that values contribution and integration, aiming to build a system that is fair, efficient, and aligned with the national interest.

Key Changes in Immigration Rules for 2024

Skilled Worker Visas

The salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas is set to increase significantly from £26,200 to £38,700, effective from April 2024. This nearly 50% rise aims to ensure that immigrants contribute meaningfully to the economy, but it also presents challenges for both employers and potential immigrants. For businesses, especially those in sectors like hospitality, the increase could make it difficult to sponsor skilled workers from abroad due to the higher salary requirements. However, those already in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa before the rule changes will not be subject to the new threshold when changing sponsors, extending visas, or settling in the UK. Health and care visa occupation codes, as well as national pay scale occupations in education, will be exempt from these changes​​​​.


Raising the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa could exacerbate existing skills shortages that pose a risk to UK research and development (R&D). In the year up to June 2023, approximately 70,000 individuals (69,421 to be exact) were issued a Skilled Worker Visa. With nine out of ten companies experiencing skills shortages, this visa category has become a crucial means for employers to secure specialized skills that are scarce worldwide.

The proposed increase in the minimum salary for eligibility, from £26,200 to £38,700, is expected to restrict access for many candidates within this talent pool. This includes technicians, research assistants, and early-career researchers who play a pivotal role in the UK's research and innovation framework.

Technicians, for instance, have an average salary of £33,743, and nearly 12% of university technician positions are occupied by individuals from outside the UK. Furthermore, about a quarter of early-career researchers at universities are paid £35,000. The salary threshold change is likely to significantly impede the UK's capacity to attract and hire international talent for these critical roles. As a result, the UK innovation ecosystem risks losing not only those who facilitate innovation but also the next generation of leading thinkers and researchers.

The collective concern within the sector is that the higher minimum salary requirement could negatively impact the advancement of innovation and, consequently, the UK's ambition to become a global science leader. This concern is underscored by the reliance on international talent in these key positions within the workforce.

Family-Based Visas

The minimum income requirement for sponsoring family members will also see a significant increase. Initially, in Spring 2024, the threshold will rise from £18,600 to £29,000, with planned staged increases to eventually reach £38,700 by Spring 2025. This phased approach aims to mitigate the immediate impact but still represents a significant hike in the financial responsibility for those wishing to bring family members to the UK. It's important to note that those already in the UK under a family visa or applying before the increase will not be subject to the new threshold​​.


The changes could significantly affect the composition of family unification migrants, who have traditionally constituted a significant portion of the UK's migrant population. Historical data shows that the number of family unification visas has remained relatively stable over the years, with a notable increase in the first half of 2023​​. The majority of these visas are granted to partners and children, indicating the importance of family migration for social cohesion and community building. The increase in the income requirement could therefore not only impact the UK's labor market and economic growth but also its social fabric​​.

Moreover, the UK's policy framework for family migration is already among the most restrictive globally, especially in terms of economic requirements for sponsors. This positions the UK as an outlier compared to other countries in terms of its approach to family reunification​​. As the UK endeavors to balance its migration policy with its economic and social objectives, the implications of these visa policy changes will necessitate careful monitoring and evaluation to ensure they do not undermine the country's growth and competitiveness on the global stage.

International Students

In its recent update, the Home Office has confirmed its decision to restrict taught students from bringing family members as dependents to the UK during their studies. This policy change is scheduled to commence in January 2024 and will exempt only those enrolled in postgraduate research programs.

In the year concluding in December 2022, dependent visas were issued to 136,000 family members of sponsored students. This forthcoming restriction prompts speculation about whether the inability to bring dependents might deter prospective students, potentially leading to a decrease in international student enrollment in higher education institutions in the UK.

Additionally, the government has requested the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to conduct a review of the Graduate Route. This visa option permits international graduates to remain in the UK to work, or seek work, at any skill level for two years post-graduation, or three years for doctoral graduates, without requiring a sponsored employer. However, applicants must be in possession of a valid Tier 4 or Student Visa at the time of application.


During the year leading up to June 2023, the UK issued 98,398 visas under the Graduate Route. Alterations or limitations to this pathway could result in the UK losing out on domestically nurtured graduate talent, especially in a competitive graduate employment landscape.

These adjustments are purportedly aimed at preventing misuse of the visa system, yet they seem to contradict the Department for Education's goals set in 2019 and 2021. These goals included increasing the value of education exports to £35 billion annually and hosting at least 600,000 international students in the UK each year. The target of 600,000 international students was surpassed in the 2021/22 academic year, with 679,970 foreign students enrolled in UK higher education institutions.

International students contribute significantly to the UK's economy, adding an estimated £41.9 billion, primarily benefiting local economies. Moreover, they enhance the educational and community experience by bringing diverse perspectives to universities and their surrounding communities. The critical contribution of international students to both the economic and cultural fabric of the UK, as well as to the financial health of UK universities, means any changes to their visa conditions will be scrutinized closely.

The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) has joined the call to exclude student figures from the net migration statistics, advocating for the removal of these changes due to their potentially adverse effects on universities and their communities.

Visit Visa Rules

Adjustments to visit visa regulations are anticipated as part of the broader strategy to control and manage immigration more effectively. While specific details of these adjustments were not highlighted in the sources reviewed, they are expected to align with the overall goal of tightening immigration controls and ensuring that visitors contribute positively to the UK's economy and society​​.


On a broader scale, these adjustments could influence the UK's perception as a welcoming destination for cultural and academic exchange, affecting its position in global rankings for tourism and international education. While the intent behind tightening visit visa regulations is to enhance security and economic contributions, it is crucial that such measures are balanced to avoid discouraging legitimate visitors, whose engagements with the UK contribute significantly to its cultural diversity and economic vitality. The challenge lies in implementing rules that are effective in achieving their intended goals without unnecessarily hindering the flow of genuine visitors and the numerous benefits they bring.

Health Surcharge Increases

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is set to increase from £624 to £1,035 per year for applications submitted on or after 6 February 2024. This increase adds considerably to the cost of visa applications for foreign workers and their employers, impacting the overall expense of securing visas for the UK​​.


​​Even before the recent increase in visa fees, the UK's visa costs were significantly higher than those of its competitors, rendering them prohibitively expensive for many, particularly individuals from developing countries.

This situation heightens the threat of the UK missing out on attracting leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and research talents. The government's economic strategies, including the Plan for Growth and the Science and Technology Framework, depend heavily on a vibrant and skilled workforce of innovators. The proposed changes could undermine the execution of these plans, impacting economic expansion and diminishing the UK's reputation internationally.

While initiatives to enhance and elevate domestic innovation skills are positive, with a justified emphasis on bolstering the UK's STEM workforce, acquiring the requisite skills and knowledge in these areas is a time-intensive process. Addressing skills shortages is a complex challenge that necessitates a dual approach and sustained policy efforts, involving a combination of expensive adult training programs, incentives, and the development of long-term educational pathways for the next generation. The vacancies created by these policy changes are likely to result in long-standing, difficult-to-fill roles, adversely affecting the UK's research and development performance. In light of these growing risks to the research and innovation ecosystem, it is crucial to begin collaborating with universities and businesses immediately to create curricula that develop the necessary skills to bridge these gaps.

Impact on Individuals and Businesses

Potential Immigrants and Families

The introduction of the Points-Based Immigration System and the closure of certain routes, such as the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, may make it more challenging for individuals seeking to migrate to the UK for work or business reasons. The increase in the financial requirement for Family Visas from £18,600 to £38,700 could significantly affect potential immigrants planning to bring family members to the UK​​.


International students are facing restrictions on their ability to bring dependants to the UK, which could make the UK a less attractive destination for higher education. Furthermore, changes to the Graduate Visa, which might restrict its availability based on job offers and salary thresholds, could impact students' post-study work opportunities, making it harder for them to transition from student visas to work visas​​.

Businesses and the UK Economy

Businesses that rely heavily on international talent may find it more challenging to fill roles, especially in sectors like hospitality, care, and construction, where the removal of the Shortage Occupation List and the introduction of an Immigration Salary List could reduce the number of roles eligible for easier sponsorship​​. This could lead to increased operational costs and difficulties in maintaining staffing levels, potentially hindering growth and innovation within the UK economy.

Future Immigration Trends Projections

Fee Increases and Financial Burdens

The introduction of higher fees for immigration routes, including the cost of certificates of sponsorship and work visa applications, alongside the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), will make it more expensive for businesses to hire from abroad​​. Such financial burdens may deter small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from seeking overseas talent, potentially exacerbating skill shortages in certain industries.

Digital Transformation of Immigration Processes

The shift towards digitizing immigration statuses and the abolition of physical Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) by the end of 2024 will streamline processes but require adjustments from employers in their onboarding and compliance protocols​​.

Potential Revision of the Shortage Occupation List

The government's contemplation of removing the 20% salary discount for roles on the Shortage Occupation List and the review of its necessity could lead to a reevaluation of which occupations are considered in shortage, impacting sectors like healthcare, engineering, and technology​​.

Feeling lost in the UK visa rules? Tech Nomads got you covered.

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Tech Nomads is a global mobility platform that provides services for international relocation. Established in 2018, Tech Nomads has a track record of successfully relocating talents and teams. Our expertise in adapting to regulatory changes ensures our clients’ satisfaction and success.

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