We are expecting a number of significant changes which will impact migrants this spring. The Home Office has recently announced that the following four will come into force in April 2024:
1. Increase in the earnings threshold for Skilled Workers
On 14 March 2024, the government intends to publish changes to the Immigration Rules to increase the salary requirement for Skilled Workers from £26,200 to £38,700. This will come into force from 4 April 2024.
There will be some exceptions. Those on a Health and Care Visa, or workers on national pay scale occupations, will be exempt. The rules will not apply retrospectively to those who already have, or have already applied for, Skilled Worker leave.
2. Increase in the minimum income requirement for partners
From 11 April 2024, the minimum income requirement for those applying for family visas under Appendix FM will increase from £18,600 to £29,000. We also know that this threshold will be increasing in stages to £34,500 in late 2024 and again to £38,700 in early 2025.
We expect the cash savings requirements under the same rules to increase. Currently the level of savings required is determined through a calculation of £16,000 plus 2.5 times the shortfall below the minimum income requirement. We do not know if the £16,000 baseline is set to change as yet.
Again, the rules will not apply retrospectively to those already on the family route, or to those who submit applications before the changes come into force. Diana Baxter addressed this change, and the minimum income requirement for partners more generally, in her blog here.
3. Changes to the Shortage Occupation List
In early April, the Shortage Occupation List will become the Immigration Salary List. The Shortage Occupation List is currently determined by the work of the Migration Advisory Committee, who will now be tasked with recommending occupations to be added to the Immigration Salary List.
At the moment, licenced employers can offer a discounted salary of 20% under the going rate for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List. This will be removed in early April. It remains to be seen what advantage, if any, there will be to a job being on the Immigration Skills List.
4. Move to new ‘e-visa’ system
Biometric Residence Permits (‘BRPs’) are being phased out. Currently BRPs are issued with a valid until date of 31 December 2024, even where the person has leave beyond that date. In their place, the government is intending to transition everyone to a ‘digital status’ via a UK Visas and Immigration (‘UKVI’) online account.
There are a range of BRP holders, including Skilled Workers, Global Talent visa holders and those with leave under the EU Settlement Scheme, who already have a UKVI account. On 25 January 2024, the Minister for Legal Migration announced that the Home Office will begin contacting BRP holders who do not have a UKVI account from April 2024 to create one.
This will be a significant undertaking to ensure everyone with a BRP has a UKVI account in an eight-month period. The Home Office will be well aware that the EU Settlement Scheme was plagued with communication issues which meant that thousands of people who needed to apply under the scheme were unaware or unable to do so. We cannot tell at this stage what lessons have been learned from the EU Settlement Scheme and the Windrush scandal to ensure that nobody falls through the cracks.