UK Business Immigration Key Changes in 2024 banner


UK Business Immigration Key Changes in 2024

  • Posted on

There are always new developments in UK immigration law and immigration rules. However, 2024 looks like it is going to be a particularly busy year for Business Immigration Lawyers.

In this article, our Immigration Solicitors highlight the key changes that we know about in 2024. We all await the details to understand exactly how these immigration rule changes will impact UK business owners and individual visa applicants.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For business immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

300,000 people

First, let us put the immigration rule changes into context. The revised net UK migration figure for 2022 was 745,000 and the provisional number for 2023 is 672,000. The Home Secretary wants to reduce the numbers by 300,000. Whilst all the headlines about ‘stopping the boats’ focus on non-legal migration, reducing net migration by 300,000 people a year will affect UK business owners and sponsor licence holders who recruit overseas migrant workers under the UK points-based immigration system.

Whilst many of the headlines focus on preventing international students or care workers from bringing family members with them to the UK on Dependant Visas, the reality is that many of the business immigration rules changes will make the UK a less attractive country to global talent and make it more expensive for sponsor licence holders to recruit the skilled workers they need.

Now we turn to the key 2024 immigration rule changes.

The immigration health surcharge

Most visa applicants must pay the immigration health surcharge. It is increasing massively for visa applicants from £624 to £1,035 per year. The change is likely to come in on 16 January 2024.

Some employers have asked if the rise in the immigration health surcharge will affect them as payment is the responsibility of the individual visa applicant but Sponsorship Licence lawyers respond by saying:

  1. The immigration health surcharge must be paid upfront when a visa applicant applies for their visa. The fees cannot be paid annually. If you are a skilled worker planning to work in the UK and bring your partner and 2 children on 3-year visas, the immigration health surcharge is a massive amount to find up front at a time when the family has all the costs of moving to a new country
  2. Many countries need global talent but do not require payment of an immigration health surcharge. For example, some require visa applicants or their employers to have taken out private health insurance. Paying monthly premiums or even upfront health insurance can be a cheaper option for visa applicants. The UK system is inflexible and still requires payment of the immigration health surcharge even where the visa applicant has premium private health insurance cover or a sponsoring employer willing to cover all health costs
  3. Employers who offer to pay the immigration health surcharge on behalf of a sponsored employee need to carefully check if their employment contract will help them recover the monies from a sponsored employee if the employee leaves their employment early

Employers can help their overseas job recruits by ensuring they get their certificate of sponsorship quickly to enable the recruit to apply for their Skilled Worker Visa before 16 January 2024.

Increase to the minimum salary threshold

The minimum salary threshold for skilled workers will increase from £26,200 to £38,700. This means some jobs that currently have a standard occupational classification code are likely to be priced out of the Skilled Worker Visa.

If employers can increase salaries to the minimum £38,700 this will presumably have a massive impact on UK inflation figures. The more likely scenario is that sponsor licence holders will recruit their essential skilled workers from overseas (in the absence of available UK workers with the necessary skills) and look to reduce costs in other areas (such as letting go of non-essential UK staff or by increased use of technology).

The shortage occupation list and salary discount

The shortage occupation list and salary discount are very handy for employers if their job vacancy meets the criteria. Unfortunately, the plan is to:

  1. Replace the shortage occupation list with a new immigration salary list
  2. Jobs on the immigration salary list will have a general threshold discount
  3. There will be fewer jobs on the immigration salary list than the current shortage occupation list

The Graduate Visa

The Graduate Visa is very attractive to UK business owners – whether they have a sponsor licence or not. It is ideal if an employer needs to recruit workers who do not need long training periods and where the business can afford to lose employees through staff turnover. That applies to many hospitality, care and construction jobs as well as to many other sectors.

For international students, the Graduate visa enables them to stay in the UK for an extra 2 years without requiring a job offer or sponsoring employer. For some, this visa gives them the freedom to stay in the UK to find their ideal Skilled Worker Visa position whilst working in a short-term job. For employers and employees, the Graduate Visa was seen as a ‘win-win’ as it helped both employer and employee meet their recruitment and job needs.

The Migration Advisory Committee is tasked with reviewing the Graduate Visa. It is expected that the route will be restricted given the changes to the Skilled Worker Visa and the minimum salary threshold. For example, saying that graduates need a degree-level job offer to stay in the UK on a Graduate Visa.

The Family Visa and the Dependant Visa

Employers may question the relevance of changes to the Family Visa to their employment of overseas workers but many UK business owners employ workers from overseas on non-sponsored routes. For example:

  1. Those in the UK on Family Visas, Spouse Visas or Partner Visas
  2. Those in the UK on Dependant Visas as the dependant of a Skilled Worker Visa holder or the dependant of an international student in the UK on a Student Visa or the dependant of a person in the UK on a Health and Care Worker Visa

The financial requirement for the Family Visa is increasing from the current £18,600 to £38,700. The effect of this is that there are likely to be fewer people on Family Visas available for UK employers to recruit.

International students on Student Visas will be greatly restricted in bringing dependants with them to the UK. Carers on Health and Care Worker Visas will not be able to bring dependants on Dependant Visas.

The changes to the Family Visa and the Dependant Visa will reduce the available pool of overseas talent able to work in the UK without needing a sponsoring employer. The reduced numbers of Family Visa and Dependant Visa holders may encourage some UK employers to apply for a first sponsor licence or to increase the number of sponsored employees.

The Business Visitor Visa

Changes to the Business Visitor Visa come into force from 31 January 2024 but these changes will be welcomed by visa applicants, UK employers and overseas based companies.

The key Business Visitor Visa changes are:

  1. Amending the permitted intra-corporate activities. This means a Business Visitor Visa holder can work directly with clients while in the UK provided that the client facing activity is incidental to their overseas employment and the activity in the UK does not equate to offshoring
  2. Allowing business visitors to work remotely whilst in the UK. The rules say remote working must not be the primary purpose of the visit
  3. Conference speakers can be paid as conference speaking is included in the list of Permitted Paid Engagements
  4. All visitors on Visitor Visas can undertake Permitted Paid Engagements without needing a specialist visa but there are rules about this. For example, the activity must have been arranged  before travelling to the UK and must be undertaken within 30 days of arrival in the UK

Action points for sponsor licence holders and UK business owners

Sponsorship Licence lawyers are recommending that sponsor licence holders and UK businesses:

  1. Take legal advice on how the immigration rule changes may affect them. It would be foolhardy to assume that because you do not have a sponsor licence you will not be affected. It is equally wrong to assume that your sponsor licence will protect you from the changes
  2. Cascade information - when you understand the potential impact of the immigration rule changes on your business it is helpful to cascade that information so your HR department, key personnel and recruitment partners know your priorities. That may mean a recruitment drive before Spring 2024
  3. Staff retention- the final action point is making sure you keep the staff you have so you do not need to recruit as many new employees after the new immigration rules come into force. That may mean a review of salary or work conditions or employment contract terms or supporting sponsored employees to apply for indefinite leave to remain. All these steps could help with staff retention

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For business immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Related Posts

Sponsor Licence Update: Sponsor Skilled Worker Visa Applicants Before the 16 January 2024 – Date for the Immigration Health Surcharge Increase

OTS Solicitors Celebrates its Inclusion in the 2024 Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession

How Much Does it Cost a UK Sponsor to Hire a Skilled Worker From Overseas?

    Get in touch

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.