Big Breaking News: Dates for New UK Visa Rules Announced | UKVI Latest Update 2024. The UK Home Office has announced several major changes to the UK’s immigration system that will be implemented over the course of 2024. These new visa rules are aimed at reducing overall migration levels to the UK by making it harder for migrants to live and work in the country.
Some of the most significant changes announced include:
- Large increases to the minimum salary thresholds for skilled worker visas – rising from £26,500 to £38,700 from April 2024.
- Removal of the Shortage Occupation List and 20% going rate discount for certain occupations from April 2024.
- Introduction of a new Immigration Salary List with higher salary requirements from April 2024.
- Increases to the minimum income requirement for family visa sponsors over 3 stages during 2024 – rising from £18,600 to £38,700.
- Expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme to more countries and changes to the eligible age range from 31 January 2024.
- Increases to the Immigration Health Surcharge fee for visa applicants from £624 to £1035 from February 2024.
These changes are set to be introduced through new Immigration Rules laid in March and coming into effect in April 2024. They represent the biggest shake-up of the UK’s immigration system in recent years.In the sections below, we’ll explore the key visa categories impacted and details of the specific changes being made.
Changes to Skilled Worker Visas
One of the most impactful changes is the large increase to the general minimum salary threshold for skilled worker visas.
What is Changing?
From 4 April 2024, the minimum salary requirement will rise from £26,500 to £38,700 per year for most skilled worker visa applications. This represents a 46% increase at a time when the country faces a cost of living crisis and economic uncertainty.The Shortage Occupation List is also being abolished and replaced with a new Immigration Salary List from April 2024. This list will set higher minimum salary requirements for individual occupations that are currently on the shortage list.Furthermore, the discounted ‘going rate’ which enabled applicants to meet salary thresholds if they were paid 20% below the market rate is being removed. All these changes will make securing a skilled worker visa much more difficult for the majority of applicants.
What Occupations Are Affected?
The increase in the general salary threshold will impact visa applications across all eligible skilled occupations. However, the biggest impact is set to be on jobs that are currently on the Shortage Occupation List. This list contains occupations where there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies, so migrants can apply with lower salaries to help address shortages. It currently includes:
- Medical radiographers
- Secondary school teachers (for certain subjects like maths and sciences)
- Web designers and developers
- Chemical and mechanical engineers
From April 2024, these shortage occupations will no longer have special concessions and applicants will need to meet the same higher salary requirements as other skilled workers. For example, the minimum salary for a secondary school teacher on the shortage list is currently £25,714. This will rise to £38,700 under the new system – a 50% increase that many schools may not be able to afford.As a result, it will become incredibly difficult for public sector employers like the NHS and schools to continue recruiting skilled migrants into shortage roles.
Changes to Family Visa Rules
The government has also announced a series of step-by-step increases to the minimum income requirement that UK sponsors must meet when applying for a family visa.
What is Changing?
From April 2024, the minimum income threshold will rise from £18,600 to £29,000 – a 55% increase. This is just the first stage of rises, with further incremental increases planned for early 2025:
- 11 April 2024: £29,000
- Early 2025: £34,500
- Early 2025: £38,700
By early 2025 the requirement will match the new £38,700 skilled worker threshold. There will also no longer be a reduced income requirement for children included on applications. Currently, the sponsor’s income can be reduced by £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child. From April 2024 this concession will be removed entirely.
What Visa Types Are Affected?
These changes will impact people applying for family visas in all categories, including:
- Spouse and partner visas
- Fiancé(e) and proposed civil partner visas
- Dependent relative visas
- Parent of a child visas
It means that sponsors seeking to bring family members to the UK will need to demonstrate much higher incomes than today. For example, to sponsor a partner and two children, the required income will rise from £24,800 to £38,700 – a 56% increase. Given median full-time salaries in the UK are around £31,285 – meeting these higher income requirements will be impossible for average families.
Expansion of Youth Mobility Scheme
Whilst most visa routes are being restricted, the government is expanding the countries eligible for its Youth Mobility Scheme from 31 January 2024. This provides an alternative option for some young people wanting to live in the UK temporarily.
What is Changing?
There are three key changes being made:
- New country added – Uruguay will become eligible, allowing young Uruguayans to apply for the first time.
- Age range increased – The eligible age range for South Korean and Taiwanese nationals will rise from 18-30 to 18-35. Similarly, Australians and Canadians will be able to stay for longer, with visas extendable from 2 years to 3 years.
- More places available – An additional 20,000 places will be offered to South Korean nationals each year. An extra 1,000 places will also be offered to Japanese nationals.
Who Can Apply?
The Youth Mobility Scheme allows young people from certain countries to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years (or 3 years for Australians/Canadians).The expanded list of eligible nationalities now includes:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
To apply, individuals must be aged 18-30, or 18-35 if from South Korea or Taiwan. They must also have £2,530 in savings and meet other visa requirements like tuberculosis screening.The scheme offers an alternative route for young people from these countries wanting to live temporarily in the UK. But the expanded age range and additional places still only benefit a tiny subset of potential migrants.
Immigration Health Surcharge Increase
Alongside changes to the substantive visa rules, the UK government is hiking the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) – an additional tax paid by migrants to cover NHS expenses.
What is Changing?
From February 2024, the IHS will rise from £624 to £1,035 per year for most adult migrants. This represents a 66% increase overnight.The charge will continue to be reduced for students and those under 18. But all other visa categories including skilled workers, investors, and family members will pay £1,035. It means a skilled migrant staying in the UK for 5 years on a standard visa would now pay £5,175 in health surcharges alone – on top of all the other application fees.
Why Increase Charges?
The government argues the surcharge increase enables temporary migrants to contribute more towards the NHS costs they may incur while living in the UK.However, most experts agree the IHS already raises more money than is spent providing healthcare to migrants. There is also no definitive evidence that migrants burden NHS resources more than the average British citizen.
Therefore, the increase seems to be primarily aimed at deterring migrants and reducing net immigration numbers rather than covering valid expenses. It places an additional tax burden on migrants who already contribute extensively to the UK economy through work visa fees, taxes, and other charges.
How Will These Changes Impact Migration to the UK?
Collectively these new visa rules represent the British government’s attempt to honour its long-standing promise to cut annual net migration figures. But many leading academics and economists argue these policies will primarily damage the economy and specific sectors like social care and the NHS that rely on migrants.
Research shows immigration generates substantial economic benefits for the UK. Migrants often take skilled roles in shortage occupations, create new jobs through entrepreneurship, and plug gaps in sectors like hospitality and agriculture. Attempting to forcibly reduce numbers through prohibitive salary thresholds and tax increases seems likely to restrict these benefits at a time when economic growth and stability are already fragile. The changes may contribute towards the UK facing potential recession in 2023/2024 alongside high inflation and rising interest rates.
Experts have highlighted that sectors like social care, construction, and hospitality will likely face damaging staff shortages if migration from Europe is reduced.
The NHS also risks a workforce crisis given its historic reliance on overseas nurses and doctors to fill shortages. The new skilled salary threshold makes recruiting these vital medical staff much more difficult.Similarly, schools and colleges may struggle to find qualified teachers in key subjects like sciences, maths, and computing if the Shortage Occupation List is abolished.
Reducing access to migrant labour could also force some businesses to relocate abroad long term. In a recent London Chamber of Commerce survey, over 50% of London firms said they may move operations overseas due to concerns over talent acquisition.
Will Net Migration Fall?
The government believes these new policies will ensure net migration falls below 100,000 per year – a long-standing Conservative target.
However, the UK currently faces record employment vacancies of around 1.2 million. If migrant worker numbers are slashed without these roles being filled by British workers, further economic instability seems inevitable. The changes may simply lead to growth in undocumented migration if demand for migrant labour remains high. And research shows tougher rules rarely stop migrants entering altogether – they just make it more dangerous and unlawful. So while legal net migration may fall on paper, the real-world impacts for the UK economy could be extremely problematic.
For EU citizens and other prospective migrants hoping to move to the UK in 2024, these new visa rules undoubtedly close several doors. But some options remain if you plan carefully and meet the tighter requirements:
Securing a skilled worker visa will get much tougher, but remain possible if you can find employment at the higher £38,700 salary threshold in an eligible occupation. Growth sectors like tech, finance, law, and business services may still provide routes.Getting sponsored as a nurse or secondary school teacher will be very difficult unless the employer can stretch salaries. Shortage roles in lower-paid sectors like hospitality are also now near-impossible due to the abolished concessions.
Youth Mobility Scheme
If you are a young citizen of an eligible country like South Korea, Taiwan, Canada or Australia, the expanded Youth Mobility Scheme remains an option for short-term stays. But you may face increased competition for places from other applicants.
Updates to the Student Visa Route
The popular Student visa route will see some changes coming into effect in July 2024, according to the Home Office release. The major update is around post-study work rights. Currently, international graduates from UK universities can stay for up to 2 years after completing studies to find work. This will be expanding to a uniform 3 years for all student visa holders who complete undergraduate level study or above.
Additionally, the rules around re-sitting exams are being simplified. This change will allow more flexibility for genuine students who need to re-take exams or repeat modules.
Expansion of Global Business Mobility Visas
Finally, the Global Business Mobility visa categories will be expanded starting in August 2024.
Two new sub-categories will be introduced under the Global Business Mobility visa:
- Service Supplier route for employees of overseas companies contracted to provide services to UK clients
- Secondment Worker route for overseas workers transferred to a UK branch of the same organization
These new routes aim to support both UK businesses accessing talent and overseas organizations looking to expand in the UK market.
The Home Office has laid out a timeline for when each aspect of the new immigration rules will take effect throughout 2024.Those planning to apply for UK visas this year should review the upcoming changes to see if they impact your application. Stay up to date on the latest UKVI announcements to ensure you have the right information when preparing your visa application.
With stricter visa rules also comes greater opportunities for those who can meet the requirements. For highly skilled workers, investors, entrepreneurs and students, the UK remains open for business.