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Home Office announces profound changes to sponsoring workers

View profile for Chloe Pereira
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In a bid to reduce net migration to the UK, the government has announced new measures set to take effect in spring 2024. These will have a far reaching impact on employers who currently, or intend to, sponsor Skilled Workers.

New measures from Spring 2024

  1. Skilled Worker Visas: The minimum salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas will rise by almost 50%, from £26,200 to £38,700 per year, or the going rate for the role if higher. Exceptions to this increase include individuals on the Health and Care visa route and those on national pay scales.
  2. Shortage Occupation List: The 20% salary discount for roles on the Shortage Occupation List, in line with previous recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), will be eliminated. Instead, a smaller list of shortage roles on an "immigration salary list" will be introduced, maintaining a general threshold discount. The MAC is tasked with reviewing this new list against the heightened salary thresholds to reduce the number of occupations on it.
  3. Care Workers: Care workers will no longer be permitted to bring dependants to the UK. Care firms in England seeking to sponsor visas must now be regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
  4. Family Visas: The minimum income threshold for family visas (e.g. spouses or partners of British or settled persons in the UK) will see a substantial increase from £18,600 to £38,700 per year, aligning with the new Skilled Worker minimum income threshold.
  5. Graduate Route Review: The MAC will conduct a review of the Graduate route to ensure it aligns with the best interests of the UK and is not subject to abuse.

These measures, if in place last year, would have impacted approximately 300,000 individuals who came to the UK. There are currently over 200 job roles eligible for Skilled Worker sponsorship, the increased salary threshold reduces this to just 15 roles.

If you are an employer who doesn’t already have a sponsor licence, there is very little time to apply, obtain one and sponsor a Skilled Worker before these changes come into force. Please get in touch as soon as possible if you are looking to apply as we can support you with the process.

The government has also reiterated previously announced measures, including:

  • From January 2024, students, unless enrolled in post-graduate courses designated as essential research, will lose the right to bring dependants to the UK.
  • The Immigration Health Surcharge will see an increase from £624 to £1,035 per year starting January 2024.

Immigration changes coming in January 2024

On December 7, 2023, the government released a policy paper titled "Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules," most of which will be enforced starting January 31, 2024. Below are the key reforms likely to impact businesses and migrant workers in the UK. 

Employers should particularly note the changes to visitor rules which could potentially be very beneficial where you have employees based overseas who need to visit the UK.


Effective January 31, 2024:

  1. Visitors will be allowed to work remotely while in the UK, as long as remote work is not the primary purpose of their visit.
  2. The restriction on visitors engaging in intra-corporate activities directly with clients will be lifted. However, this is contingent on the client-facing activity being incidental to the visitor's employment abroad and not constituting the offshoring of a project or service to their overseas employer.
  3. Scientists, researchers, and academics will have the liberty to conduct research in the UK during their visit. This extends the current limitations, allowing scientists and researchers to only conduct independent research and academics to perform research for personal purposes while on sabbatical leave. Note that these changes do not apply to academics applying for a 12-month visit visa or those seeking an extension from within the UK.
  4. Visiting legal professionals, including overseas lawyers, will have expanded permitted activities, such as providing legal services and participating in arbitrations. 
  5. Speakers at conferences will now be eligible for payment, incorporated into the list of Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE).
  6. The PPE Visitor route provisions will be integrated into the Standard Visitor route, eliminating the need for a special visa for all visitors intending to undertake PPE. However, such visitors must have arranged their PPE activity before traveling to the UK and must complete it within 30 days of arrival as a Visitor.

Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)

Effective January 31, 2024:

  • The YMS route will be extended to eligible Uruguayan nationals, with a maximum allocation of 500 places for Uruguayan nationals in 2024. Applicants must meet standard eligibility criteria and provide a Certificate of Judicial Records issued within six months before the application date.
  • The number of allocated places for nationals of Japan and the Republic of Korea will increase, and the requirement for them to obtain an invitation to apply will be eliminated. Additionally, the age range for nationals of the Republic of Korea will expand from 18-30 to 18-35.

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

Effective January 16, 2024:

  • Changes will be implemented to prevent a valid EUSS application as a joining family member by individuals with irregular arrivals to the UK, including small boat arrivals, and by illegal entrants.
  • Visitors in the UK must submit any application to the EUSS as a joining family member within three months of their arrival, with allowances for reasonable grounds for any application delay.
  • Limited leave to enter or remain granted under the EUSS may be curtailed, subject to appeal rights, if it is deemed proportionate, and the person never met the requirements of Appendix EU.