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Legal changes

Update on Immigration Rules Changes 2024

Read our roundup of the changes to the UK immigration regime that have been implemented in 2024.

The government has introduced a series of immigration and visa changes in the first half of 2024, aimed at tackling record levels of legal migration.

The move has not been popular with business and education leaders in the UK, who have argued that the changes risk reducing the pool of talent available to UK employers and harming the economy.

Immigration law expert, Carolyn Bowie, summarises the changes.

Business visitors

On 31 January 2024, new rules were introduced for business visitors:

  • Visitors may undertake some client-facing activity when visiting a UK branch/subsidiary in the same group.
  • More activities are now permitted for overseas lawyers.
  • Speakers at conferences are now permitted to be paid.
  • Clarifications regarding remote working have been made. Remote working is allowed provided that it is not the primary purpose of the visit.

Immigration health surcharge increase

The immigration health surcharge increased from £624 per year to £1,035 per year on 6 February 2024. The discounted rate for students, children and youth mobility visa holders increased from £470 to £776 per year.

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

Illegal working: civil penalties

Increased civil penalties for businesses employing individuals without the appropriate immigration permission came into effect on 13 February 2024.

The penalty for a first breach of the rules tripled from a maximum of £15,000 per illegal worker to £45,000 per illegal worker.

The penalty for repeat breaches rose from £20,000 to £60,000 per illegal worker.

Visa changes

Since 11 March 2024, migrant care workers (SOC code 6145) and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) can no longer bring dependants (partners and children) into the UK on their visa. This does not apply to sponsored migrant care workers already in the UK.

The baseline minimum salary to be sponsored for a Skilled Worker visa rose from £26,200 to £38,700 on 4 April 2024 (except for Health and Care Worker visas, education workers on national pay scales, or those already sponsored under the route).

The shortage occupation list has been replaced with the Immigration Salary List which abolishes the 20% ‘going rate’ salary discount — this aims to ensure that migrant workers cannot be paid less than UK workers for the same role. The changes took effect in April 2024.

The minimum income required to sponsor someone for a spouse/partner visa increased to £29,000 on 11 April 2024. It is expected to rise further to around £34,500 later in 2024 and eventually to £38,700 by early 2025.

Graduate visa review

A review of the graduate visa, a two-year unsponsored work permit for overseas graduates of British universities, is still ongoing.

The Migration Advisory Committee this week warned the government against abolishing the graduate visa programme but it remains unclear whether this warning will be heeded.

Do you need help?

These immigration and visa changes will have a significant effect on some employers. If you need assistance in navigating the changes, contact our immigration lawyers.

For further information on the rule changes, contact Carolyn Bowie or our team of expert immigration lawyers.