Five Major Shifts in UK Visa Rules Announced in December 2023: A Breakdown
In December 2023, the UK government unveiled a five-point plan significantly impacting the country’s visa landscape. Aiming to curb net migration, these changes will affect social care workers, skilled workers, international students, and individuals seeking family visas. Let’s delve into the specifics of these revisions and their implementation timelines.
1. Restricting Family applications for Care Workers: Effective March 11, 2024, care workers will no longer be eligible to bring their dependants – partners and children – on their visas. This decision aims to address concerns about the substantial increase in dependants accompanying care workers in recent years, straining public services and resources.
2. Raising the Bar for Skilled Worker Visas: From April 4, 2024, the minimum salary requirement for obtaining a Skilled Worker visa jumps from £26,200 to a hefty £38,700. This significant increase seeks to attract highly skilled individuals contributing to the economy while ensuring they can financially support themselves. Exemptions apply to healthcare workers and education professionals on national pay scales, acknowledging their vital roles.
3. Reshaping the Shortage Occupation List: Aiming to attract skilled workers domestically rather than through foreign recruitment, the government plans to modify the Shortage Occupation List. Implemented in April 2024, these changes will likely reduce the number of jobs eligible for sponsoring workers below the usual minimum salary threshold. This move potentially impacts industries facing labor shortages like hospitality and agriculture.
4. Raising the Income threshold: The minimum income requirement for sponsoring a spouse/partner visa is set to escalate in stages. Starting April 11, 2024, it will rise from £18,600 to £29,000. Further increases to around £34,500 and ultimately £38,700 are planned for later in 2024 and early 2025, respectively. This policy targets ensuring sponsors possess sufficient financial stability to support their families without relying on state resources.
5. Scrutinizing the Graduate Visa: An independent review of the Graduate visa – a two-year work permit for international graduates of UK universities – is on the horizon. The Migration Advisory Committee will undertake this evaluation, with its potential consequences still unclear. This review might assess the program’s effectiveness in attracting and retaining skilled graduates while aligning it with the government’s broader immigration goals.
Implementation and Scrutiny: The government intends to lay out these changes in statements to Parliament on February 19 and March 14, 2024. Each modification takes effect after 40 days unless both Houses of Parliament actively vote to annul them. This parliamentary scrutiny safeguards against overly restrictive policies.
Important to Note:
- Only first-time spouse/partner visa applicants face the rising income requirement, not those seeking extensions.
- When applying for extensions or permanent residence, both the applicant’s and sponsor’s income are considered.
- The potential increase in savings required alongside the income rise remains undecided.
- Foreign members of the armed forces sponsoring spouses/partners are also subject to the minimum income increase.
- Existing Skilled Worker visa holders won’t be affected by the higher salary threshold.
Moving Forward: These sweeping changes undoubtedly impact various groups seeking to live and work in the UK. It’s crucial to stay informed about their implementation timelines and potential implications. While aiming to manage immigration levels, the government must ensure these policies effectively achieve their intended goals without creating undue hardship for legitimate applicants.