NewsUK Tightens Immigration Rules: Steep Salary Hike for Skilled Worker Visas Risks...

UK Tightens Immigration Rules: Steep Salary Hike for Skilled Worker Visas Risks Talent Shortage

The UK government has announced major changes to its immigration system aimed at drastically reducing net migration levels. One of the key reforms targets migrant workers, making it significantly harder for employers to hire foreign labor. This move has sparked concerns across various sectors that rely heavily on overseas workers.

Migrant Worker Crackdown: Key Changes

Recall that, on December 4th, 2023, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled a robust package of measures to slash legal migration into the UK. Among the most significant changes impacting migrant workers are:

Higher Salary Thresholds for Skilled Worker Visas

From April 4th, 2024, the minimum salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas has increased by a staggering 48% – from £26,200 to £38,700 per year. This substantial hike aims to refocus the UK’s immigration system on attracting highly-skilled talent while reducing overall migration numbers.

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End of Shortage Occupation List

The Shortage Occupation List, which previously allowed employers to pay migrants less than UK workers in roles with labor shortages, has been abolished. A new “Immigration Salary List” replaces it, with far fewer eligible occupations determined by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Restrictions on Care Worker Dependants

As of March 11th, 2024, migrant care workers and senior care workers are no longer permitted to bring dependants to the UK. This change follows concerns over exploitation and abuse within the care sector. However, existing care workers already in the UK can still be joined by dependants.

CQC Registration for Care Providers

Care homes in England must now be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to sponsor migrant care workers. This new requirement aims to prevent abuse and ensure workers are employed in legitimate, regulated roles.

Backlash from Impacted Sectors

The crackdown on migrant workers has drawn criticism from industries heavily reliant on overseas labour, such as hospitality, social care, and agriculture.

The National Health Service (NHS) has raised concerns about the impact on international recruitment efforts, particularly for roles like nurses and care workers. While health and care workers are exempt from the new £38,700 threshold, they will still need to meet a minimum salary of £29,000 – a significant increase from previous levels.

The care sector has warned that restricting care workers from bringing dependants could exacerbate existing staff shortages, as fewer overseas candidates may be willing to relocate without their families.

Meanwhile, the hospitality industry has long relied on migrant workers to fill roles that UK nationals are often reluctant to take. With tighter immigration rules, businesses may struggle to find enough staff, potentially leading to reduced services or higher costs passed on to consumers.

Rationale: Prioritizing British Workers

The government argues that these changes are necessary to deliver on the public’s desire for reduced immigration levels while prioritizing job opportunities for British workers. Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated, “It’s time to turn off the taps and end the flow of cheap workers from abroad. Mass migration is unsustainable, and it’s simply not fair. It undercuts the wages of hard-working people who are just trying to make ends meet.”

The reforms align with the government’s broader “Back to Work” plan, a £2.5 billion initiative aimed at supporting over a million long-term unemployed, sick, or disabled individuals into employment.

By raising the bar for overseas workers, the government hopes to incentivize businesses to invest in training and upskilling the domestic workforce, rather than relying on cheaper foreign labour.

Potential Economic Impact

While the long-term effects remain to be seen, economists have warned that restricting migrant workers could have adverse consequences for the UK economy. A report by the Economic Observatory suggests that reducing EU immigration could lead to labor shortages in sectors like hospitality, social care, and construction, potentially hampering economic growth.

Additionally, higher salary thresholds may force businesses to raise wages, increasing operational costs and potentially leading to higher prices for consumers. This could further exacerbate the ongoing cost-of-living crisis in the UK. On the other hand, proponents argue that prioritizing British workers and reducing reliance on migrant labor could boost productivity and encourage investment in automation and technology, ultimately benefiting the economy in the long run.

Navigating the New Landscape

As the UK’s immigration landscape shifts, both employers and prospective migrant workers will need to adapt to the new rules and requirements. Employers should review their recruitment strategies and workforce planning, considering upskilling and training initiatives to develop domestic talent pipelines.

Those heavily reliant on migrant workers may need to reevaluate their business models or explore alternative solutions, such as automation or offshoring. Prospective migrant workers, on the other hand, will face heightened scrutiny and stricter eligibility criteria.

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Those seeking employment in the UK should carefully review the updated visa requirements and ensure they meet the necessary qualifications and salary thresholds.

For care workers and their families, the decision to relocate to the UK may become more challenging, as they weigh the potential benefits against the inability to bring dependants.


The UK government’s crackdown on migrant workers represents a significant shift in the country’s immigration policy, with far-reaching implications for various sectors and the broader economy. While the stated goal is to prioritize British workers and reduce overall migration levels, the reforms have sparked concerns about potential labor shortages, increased operational costs, and reduced competitiveness for businesses.

As the new rules take effect, both employers and prospective migrant workers will need to navigate the changing landscape carefully, adapting their strategies and plans accordingly.

The ultimate impact on the UK’s economy and labor market remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the era of easy access to migrant workers is coming to an end.

For the latest updates and guidance on the new immigration rules, visit the Home Office website or click here to apply for the appropriate visa.

Also Read:

Key Dates for Dependent Visa Changes Announced by Parliament – Major UK Immigration Updates in 2024

UK Scraps Shortage Occupation List, Introducing New Immigration Salary List With Fewer Jobs


UK Immigration Crisis: Stricter Rules and Deportation Plans Unveiled

New UK Immigration Rules 2024: What Healthcare Workers and Employers Need to Know

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