Immigration-related issues are in the news headlines almost every day but what do the government's recent announcements mean in 2024 for employers wanting to recruit talent into the UK or with overseas staff visiting the UK as business visitors?
In this article we outline the most significant changes for 2024, and highlight the areas which employers should keep under review.
Visa application fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge
Hot on the heels of the increases in visa application fees in October, a further hike for the Immigration Health Surcharge will come into effect from 16 January 2024. The IHS will increase for most applicants from £624 to £1,035 per year of the visa. This government has said that this is to ensure that those coming to the UK make a fair financial contribution to public services including the NHS.
Package of government measures to "slash" migration
Earlier this month, the Home Secretary announced a package of measures to "deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration" in Spring 2024. Although, to a certain extent, aimed at the high numbers of dependants coming to the UK with workers on Health and Care Worker visas, the following announcements will be of particular interest to employers:
- The minimum salary threshold for Skilled Workers is due to increase from £26,200 to £38,700. This is likely to mean that a number of current skilled occupations will no longer meet the requirements for sponsorship.
- The salary discount for shortage occupations (currently 20%) and the Shortage Occupation List will be replaced with a new Immigration Salary List with a general threshold discount. The Migration Advisory Committee ("MAC") will reduce the number of occupations on the list in the light of the increased salary thresholds above.
- The minimum income threshold will increase from £18,600 to £38,700 a year for a spouse/partner visa (for example for the spouse of a British or settled person in the UK).
- There is a proposed review by MAC of the Graduate visa route (which currently allows individuals to work without sponsorship for up to two years). This may result in future visa applicants being able to only work in graduate skilled roles or above.
Changes to the business visitor rules
There are a number of variations to the business visitor rules which will be in force from 31 January. The underlying details are still awaited, however some of the more general provisions include:
- Amending the permitted intra-corporate activities so that the prohibition on working directly with clients no longer applies. Instead a requirement will be introduced that client facing activity is "incidental" to the visitor’s employment abroad and it does not amount to the offshoring of a project or service to their overseas employer.
- Allowing visitors to work remotely whilst they are in the UK but remote working must not be the primary purpose of their visit.
- Permitting conference speakers to be paid by including this in the list of Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE).
- Moving the provisions of the Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor route into the Standard Visitor route. All visitors will be able to undertake PPE without the need for a special visa. However, visitors intending to undertake PPE must still have arranged their PPE activity before travelling to the UK and this must be undertaken within 30 days of arrival in the UK as a visitor.
Further details on some of the above changes will be published early next year. Between now and then, UK employers should factor the proposed increases into any future recruitment strategies.
For more information on any of the issues raised in this briefing, please speak to your usual Ashurst contact or to any of the people whose contact details are given below.