Latest Update: The UK Government’s ‘5 point plan’ to reduce immigration

30th January 2024

The ‘5 point plan’ Latest Immigration Update

Last month the Government announced a new plan in order to reduce migration by 300,000. The proposed policy changes have stirred discussions and raised questions about the nations approach to skilled workers, care professionals, families and graduates. This latest immigration update explores the current developments in these key areas, shedding light on the implications for those who may be impacted by the changes.

Care Workers and Dependents

One notable recent development involves the UK Government’s decision to prevent care workers from bringing their dependents to the country. The Health Secretary Victoria Atkins attempted to justify this proposed change stating, “We have got to a situation where we have more people coming over as dependents than people who are actually working under the visas.”

The withdrawal of the right for care workers and senior care workers to bring dependants to the UK, is due to come into force on 11 March 2024.

If I already have a Health and Care Worker visa can my dependants stay in the UK?
  • Care workers (SOC code 6145) and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) already in the route will be able to remain with their dependants, including extending, changing employer (within these SOC codes) and settlement.
Will the new rules apply if I have not yet applied for my dependants to join me?
  • Where a care worker or senior care worker is in the route before the Immigration Rules change, but has not yet brought dependants, they will be allowed to bring dependants during their sponsorship (on this visa).
If I’m already in the UK and switch into a care worker or senior care worker role will my dependents be able to stay in the UK?
  • Individuals who are in the UK on any other route, including where that route permits dependants, who switch into the care visa as a care worker or senior care worker after this date, will not be able to stay with (or bring over) dependants.

Whilst the rationale behind this move is rooted in the desire to reduce the number of dependents migrating to the UK, concerns have been raised about the potential impact on the well-being and support networks of care professionals. Stakeholders will be closely monitoring the consequences of these changes for both the workforce and the care sector.

Minimum Salary Increase for Skilled Worker Visa Applications:

The Skilled Worker visa, a cornerstone of the UK’s immigration system, will soon see an increase in its minimum salary requirements.

The Government proposes introducing new Immigration Rules increasing the earnings thresholds for those arriving on the Skilled Worker route, with the changes coming into force from 4th April 2024.

The minimum annual salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas is set to increase from £26,200 to £38,700, marking an increase of almost 50%. However, the Health and Care Worker visas and some additional roles listed on the current Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will be exempt from the new salary requirement.

Home Secretary James Cleverly, when announcing the proposals last month, commented, “We liaise very closely with other Government Departments to ensure that our system, which is transparent and fair, also supports the British economy”. Cleverly also stated that he would be “creating a salary threshold [although this is already in place] and raising the minimum income requirement ‘progressively’ over the next few years.” 

This move is aimed at ensuring that skilled workers entering the UK are financially self-sufficient and contribute significantly to the economy. Critics argue that this adjustment may pose challenges for both employers and prospective migrants, potentially limiting access to skilled labour and deterring talented individuals from considering the UK as a viable option.

Shortage Occupation List to be Renamed:

Recognising the importance of addressing workforce shortages in specific sectors, the UK Government has long considered adjustments in the visa process for shortage occupations. Occupations such as healthcare professionals, IT specialists, and engineers have seen updates to streamline the immigration process for those possessing critical skills. The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) has long provided a tool to strike a balance between meeting labour demands and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recently recommended the scrapping of the SOL and the 20% going-rate salary discount for shortage occupations.
The Government has now confirmed that the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will be renamed the ‘Immigration Salary List’ and the MAC will advise on which of the current SOL occupations should remain on the list in line with the new salary thresholds.

There will be a transitional period allowing occupations and salaries to be established on the new list. The current SOL will remain in place until the new salary thresholds are put in place in late Spring.
This change means that some sponsored workers in lower-paid salary occupations on the Immigration Salary List, will still benefit from a reduced minimum salary level.

Minimum Income Requirements set to rise for Family Visa Applications:

The minimum income requirement for family visas is set to rise, posing challenges for individuals seeking to reunite with their loved ones in the UK. As the government asserts the need for financial stability and reduced dependency on public funds, concerns arise regarding the potential impact on families, particularly those facing economic hardship.
It’s interesting to note that the Home Office has already retracted it’s suggested income threshold increase of £38,700 to support family visa applications, confirming instead that the threshold will initially be increased to £29,000 effective from spring 2024.

Rishi Sunak, recognising that the higher threshold would put such applications out of reach for many thousands of families, announced the reduced increase at the end of December 2023. This illustrates that the Government’s proposed figures are not always set in stone.

What if I already have a family visa or apply before the changes?
  • Those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold. This will also be the case for children seeking to join or accompany parents.
How will these changes impact a fiancé(e) visa?
  • Anyone granted a fiancé(e) visa before the minimum income threshold is raised will also be assessed against the current income requirement when they apply for a family visa within the five-year partner route.
If I switch immigration routes after the changes will I need to meet the new requirements?
  • Those already in the UK on a different route who apply to switch into the five-year partner route, after the minimum income requirement has been increased, will be subject to the new income requirement.
Graduate Visa Route:

The Graduate Route, designed to retain the brightest minds in the UK after completing their studies, is currently under review by the Migration Advisory Committee.

The Government aims to ensure that this route remains attractive to international students, contributing to the UK’s academic and research landscape. As discussions unfold, stakeholders are keen to see how the review addresses the evolving needs of both graduates and the UK’s higher education sector.

Our Summary:

Since the Government’s proposed changes were announced in early December 2023, there has been much speculation on if and how such measures would be implemented. Most of the proposals have now been confirmed and are provoking interesting debate.

As the landscape of UK immigration undergoes dynamic shifts, it is crucial to stay informed about these developments and their potential impacts. From changes in care worker policies to salary increases for skilled workers and adjustments in shortage occupations, the evolving nature of immigration policies reflects the UK’s commitment to adapting to economic and societal needs. Keeping a watchful eye on these developments will be essential for individuals, employers, and policymakers navigating the intricate pathways of the UK immigration system.

Sign up to stay up to date, with news and advice