In 2024, the UK Government's immigration policy will see comprehensive changes, significantly impacting various sectors. The detailed breakdown of these changes includes:
Skilled Worker Visa
Salary Threshold Increase: The general threshold salary for the Skilled Worker route has been increased to £38,700, a nearly 50% rise from the previous £26,200. This increase is highly controversial. The exact figures for specific occupation codes are yet to be confirmed.
Exemptions: The increased salary threshold does not apply to roles on a national pay scale, such as teaching roles, nor does it apply to those coming on the Health and Care visa route.
New Entrants and Students: Reduced thresholds will continue for new entrants or those switching from student visas, although the exact levels are pending confirmation.
Income Threshold: The minimum income threshold for UK-based individuals sponsoring family members has been raised to £38,700, up from £18,600. The method for calculating minimum cash savings is expected to remain the same.
Human Rights Considerations: Current exceptions for the income requirement will continue due to human rights implications, as refusal can breach the right to family life.
Health and Care Worker Visa
Sponsorship Restrictions: Care providers can now only sponsor a visa if the work is regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
Dependent Restrictions: Individuals under this visa will not be able to bring dependents, which could potentially reduce the visa's attractiveness.
Net Migration Impact
These changes, along with the restrictions on family members for student visas, aim to reduce net migration figures significantly, potentially affecting around 300,000 people who came to the UK in the previous year.
Fee Increases and Digitalization
Fee Increases: The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is set to increase from £624 to £1,035 per annum starting 16 January 2024, along with increases in other visa-related fees.
Digitalization: Physical Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) will be abolished by the end of 2024 in favor of online immigration statuses.
Shortage Occupation List and Skills Shortages
Abolishing Salary Discounts: The government plans to end the system allowing employers to pay migrants only 80% of the going rate for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List.
Review of the List: The list of shortage occupations will be reviewed, and a new Immigration Salary List with a reduced number of occupations will be created.
Impact on Businesses: These changes could exacerbate skill shortages in certain sectors, affecting the ability of businesses to recruit necessary talent.
Labor Market and Business Reactions
Tight Labor Market: The UK's persistently tight labor market, especially post-Brexit, has led to difficulties in hiring workers, which might be further strained by these changes.
Business Concerns: Business owners and trade bodies have expressed concerns that these changes will shrink the talent pool and worsen existing shortages, particularly in sectors like hospitality.
Union and Healthcare Sector Concerns
Healthcare Impact: Trade unions and healthcare sector representatives have warned that these changes could be disastrous for the NHS and social care, potentially driving migrant workers to more welcoming countries.
These immigration policy changes in 2024 reflect the UK government's focus on reducing net migration and reshaping the labour market dynamics. While aimed at prioritizing local talent, the implications of these changes are far-reaching, affecting businesses, the healthcare sector, and potential migrants. Employers and individuals alike must navigate these changes carefully, considering the increased financial implications and the tightening labour market.
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