Government announces plans to drastically reduce net migration

On 4 December 2023, the Government made clear their intention to reduce net migration in the UK, as the Home Secretary set out a five-point plan to reduce net migration. The controversial and substantive changes are due to come into effect this Spring.

What are the changes?

  1. Increase of the minimum salary threshold for Skilled Workers from £26,200 to £38,700;
  2. Care workers will be exempt from the increase in the minimum salary threshold but will not be permitted to bring dependants to the UK;
  3. Minimum income for a spouse/family visa will rise from £18,600 to £29,000, but will later rise to £38,700;
  4. The 20% salary discount for shortage occupations to be abolished; and
  5. The Migration Advisory Committee will be commissioned to carry a full review of the Graduate visa route with further crack downs planned to reduce “abuse” of the current system.

What’s the likely impact?

The Government claims that the new measures will cut net migration by an estimated 300,000 and will achieve their aim of significantly reducing migration in the UK.  However, the changes have faced huge criticism and the Government is accused of causing more harm than good with these measures.

Whilst businesses in other sectors may not be significantly affected by the increase in the minimum salary threshold, those in the hospitality sector are likely to be priced out of utilising the Skilled Worker route to fill labour shortages.  This is particularly the case with the planned increase in the NHS Subcharge from £624 to £1,035 per year.

Another surprising point of the Government’s plan is the increase of the minimum income threshold for those applying under the family route. The substantial increase from £18,600 to £29,000 (later rising to £38,700) takes the threshold above the national average salary and again fails to consider geographical differences in salaries.  What is clear, is that the changes will make the position difficult for many families and will result in an increase of Human Rights applications and subsequent appeals.

While Home Secretary, James Cleverly emphasised the importance of fairness, legality, and sustainability in immigration policy, the changes will undoubtably cause unease in the hospitality sector. Although the exemption from the increase in the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas for Health and Care visa applicants and those on national pay scales like teachers will be welcomed by most, it’s disappointing to see that no such relief seems to be planned for the hospitality industry.

In response to the announcement of the changes, UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls highlighted that around 95% of the 8,500 hospitality visas issued last year would no longer be eligible under the new rules, stating that “these changes will further shrink the talent pool that the entire economy will be recruiting from, and only worsen the shortages hospitality businesses are facing”.

We would advise any businesses affected by the changes to act promptly to ensure applications can be submitted before the changes are implemented. Consulting an immigration lawyer can help ensure you understand the new rules and complete visa formalities before the new stricter measures take force.

Our expert immigration lawyers offer a free 10-minute consultation to assess your situation. Please ​​contact us now to speak to a member of our Immigration Team.

Usof Shah
Senior Solicitor, Immigration
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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