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Navigating the UK's New Skilled Worker Visa Rules: What Businesses Need to Know

Updated: Mar 23

On March 14, 2024, the UK government presented a significant Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules before Parliament. We want to ensure our clients are well-informed about the upcoming changes, particularly those related to the Skilled Worker visa route, and the potential implications for businesses. In this post, we'll break down the key changes and discuss how companies can prepare for the new landscape.

Increased Salary Thresholds:

One of the most notable changes is the increase in the general salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas. The current £26,200 threshold, based on the 25th percentile of UK earnings in eligible occupations, will rise to £38,700, reflecting the median earnings. This change is based on the latest ONS pay data and is designed to encourage businesses to invest in the domestic workforce rather than relying heavily on foreign labour.

Individual occupations will also see their "going rates" increase from the 25th percentile to the median. However, there are some exemptions, such as roles sponsored under Health and Care visas or those with national pay scale rates. For these exempt occupations, the general threshold will increase from £26,200 to £29,000.

Replacing the Shortage Occupation List:

The Shortage Occupation List will be replaced by a new "Immigration Salary List" (ISL). The ISL will highlight occupations that qualify for a discounted salary threshold rather than listing all shortage occupations. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will review the ISL later in 2024. Occupations on the ISL will benefit from a 20% discount on the relevant salary threshold.

Impact on Existing Skilled Workers:

For extension applications submitted on or after April 4, 2024, the general salary threshold is increasing to £29,000 per year, and the going rates for each occupation code are increasing to the 25th percentile of earnings for that occupation, which is lower than the median rate used for new applicants. Transitional provisions apply for those who held a Skilled Worker visa before April 4, 2024 and have had continuous permission since then, or those whose occupation was removed from the eligible occupations list. Under these transitional provisions, which are valid until April 4, 2030, the discounted going rates can be used if the occupation was previously on the Shortage Occupation List.

Preparing Your Business:

To navigate these changes successfully, businesses should take proactive steps:

  1. Review current Skilled Worker salaries: Assess whether your sponsored employees' salaries meet the new thresholds and plan for necessary adjustments.

  2. Consider the Immigration Salary List: Check if any of your key roles are on the ISL and factor in the discounted salary thresholds when planning your recruitment strategies.

  3. Budget for salary increases: Anticipate and allocate resources for potential salary increases to retain existing Skilled Workers and attract new talent.

  4. Explore alternative routes: Consider other visa categories, such as the Global Talent visa, for highly skilled individuals who may not meet the new salary thresholds.

  5. Invest in domestic workforce development: Look for opportunities to train and upskill your resident workforce to reduce reliance on foreign labor.

The new Skilled Worker visa rules have brought both challenges and opportunities for UK businesses. At our immigration firm, we offer comprehensive support and expertise to help you navigate this new landscape successfully. We will work closely with you to create customized strategies that align with your business goals and workforce requirements. Our aim is to help you adapt and thrive in the face of these changes. To prepare for the future of UK immigration, get in touch with us today to discuss your specific needs.

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