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Legal changes

Immigration Changes 2024: A Reminder

Full details of transitional provisions will be set out by the government when further policy details will be announced.

In light of the government’s stated aim to ‘deliver the biggest ever cut in net migration and curb abuse of the immigration system’, 2024 promises to be another year of change for the UK immigration regime. We round up upcoming developments.

Illegal working: civil penalties

On 13 February 2024 an increase in civil penalties will come into force for businesses that employ an individual without the appropriate immigration permission in the UK. The changes were originally set to take effect on 22 January 2024 but have been pushed back due to a delay in The Immigration (Employment of Adults Subject to Immigration Control)(Maximum Penalty)(Amendment) Order 2023 being approved by parliament.

The penalty for a first breach of the rules will triple from a maximum of £15,000 per illegal worker to £45,000 per illegal worker. The penalty for repeat breaches will rise from £20,000 to £60,000 per illegal worker.

The Home Office has also indicated that it will consult later this year on options to ‘strengthen action’ against businesses that employ illegal workers.

Immigration health surcharge increase

The immigration health surcharge is set to increase from £624 per year to £1,035 per year. The discounted rate for students, children and youth mobility visa holders will be increased from £470 to £776 per year. This is due to come into effect for applications made on or after 6 February 2024 following the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023 being approved by both Houses of Parliament earlier this month, (16 January 2024).

These changes are a significant increase to the overall cost of obtaining a UK Visa, especially as the surcharge is payable per year of the applicant’s stay and applies to any accompanying dependants. UK employers will need to make a policy decision whether to cover these increased costs or require migrants to do so themselves.

Proposed plan to decrease net migration

In December, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary set out a five-point plan that is stated to take effect in 2024 in an attempt to reduce net migration:

  1. Social care workers will not be allowed to bring dependants, (partners and children), on their visa. This ban will happen “as soon as possible in the new year”.
  2. The baseline minimum salary to be sponsored for a Skilled Worker visa will rise from £26,200 to £38,700, (but not for the Health and Care Worker visa, which includes social care, or for education workers on national pay scales). Expected to take effect in April 2024.
  3. Changes to the shortage occupation list to significantly reduce the number of jobs where it will be possible to sponsor overseas workers below the baseline minimum salary, (which is the main purpose of the list). Expected to take effect no sooner than April 2024.
  4. The minimum income normally required to sponsor someone for a spouse/partner visa will rise in stages from £18,600 to £29,000, and ultimately around £38,700. The first increase to £29,000 is expected in “spring 2024”, then to around £34,500 at an unspecified time, (likely later in 2024), and, finally, to around £38,700 “in early 2025”.
  5. The Migration Advisory Committee will review the Graduate visa, a two-year unsponsored work permit for overseas graduates of British universities. The review will begin in January, (and may run until “late 2024”).

While clarification is awaited, the government has confirmed that the current salary and minimum income requirement thresholds, and policies relating to dependants, remain in place and at the current levels until the Immigration Rules are amended.

Of note, anyone who submits an application or is already in the skilled work route before the rules change, will not be subject to the new £38,700 salary threshold whenever they apply to change employment, extend, or settle.

Full details of transitional provisions will be set out by the government when further policy details will be announced.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Carolyn Bowie or for more information on the immigration changes, contact our expert immigration lawyers.

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