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How the New Immigration Policies Affect Britons and Businesses

On 04 December 2023, the recently appointed Home Secretary, James Cleverly,  announced a plan to slash migration levels and to “curb abuse of the immigration system”.   

The Press Release promises “Together, this package will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would now not be able to come.”

The press release states: 

The package of measures will end the high numbers of dependants coming to the UK, increase the minimum salaries that overseas workers and British or settled people sponsoring family members must earn, and tackle exploitation across the immigration system.

It is not clear how, exactly, pricing out British families and businesses tackles ‘exploitation of the immigration system’.  It is also not clear how migrants and their families have exploited the system in place through being sponsored, as the people who have migrated to the UK under the Immigration Rules specifically had to meet the requirements that the government set for them.  Meeting the Rules cannot be exploiting the Rules. 

Who Do the Changes Affect?

The newly announced policies will have an effect on: 

  • British / settled people and their non-British/settled partners and families;
  • British companies needing workers;
  • Families of students studying for undergraduate / master’s degrees;
  • Families of carers.

British / settled persons and their families

Currently, to sponsor a partner, a British or settled person has to meet financial requirements and demonstrate earnings of £18,600 from specified sources, or, if they do not have an income at all, cash savings held for six months of £62,500.  

Following the announcement, it is understood that, from “next spring”, the minimum income requirement will be more than doubled, to £38,700.  (UPDATE: Home Office Revises Minimum Income Requirement for Spouse, Partner and Family Visas to £29,000) This is an enormous shift and will no doubt cause difficulty for many families. 

Under the current Rules, to sponsor a first dependent child, there must be £18,600 plus an additional £3,800 in income (or 2.5 x that in savings) and a further £2,400 (or 2.5 x that in savings) for each additional child. 

At this stage, it is not clear what the increase to sponsor children, in addition to a partner, may be. Presumably the new rules will have some kind of uplift for children, given the stated aim is to make sure people can afford not to be a burden on the state.  

What is clearer, is that the new minimum financial requirement applicable to British and settled persons who wish to sponsor a family member is likely to lead to a significant increase in both human rights-based applications and immigration appeals as many of those who are now not able to satisfy the family visa financial requirement will seek to rely on one of the exceptions to the partner visa requirements instead.

British companies needing skilled workers

The current minimum earnings threshold for a Skilled Worker is £26,200 pa / £10.75ph / the ‘going rate’ for the specific occupation code. There is also currently a Shortage Occupation list, which the government updates and which sets out jobs the UK particularly needs to fill, and enables sponsorship of these roles for less than the general threshold / going rate for the role. 

Following the new announcement, from “next spring”, the government will increase the earning threshold for overseas workers by nearly 50% from its current position of £26,200 to £38,700, encouraging businesses to look to British talent first and invest in their workforce, helping us to deter employers from over-relying on migration, whilst bringing salaries in line with the average full-time salary for these types of jobs”.  

In this, the government is neglecting the skill level it introduced with the Skilled Worker route (when it was reduced from RQF Level 6 to RQF Level 3), and is likely pricing out the jobs at RQF Level 3 which would be unlikely to be paid £38,700pa.  


The ‘going rate’ requires a calculation based on the number of hours. 

  • The occupation code ‘1115 Chief executives and senior officials’ has the highest going rate of £59,300 per annum / £30.41 ph based on a 37.5 hour work week.   

This, presumably, would be unchanged, unless a worker’s hours were such that the going rate would be less than £38,700.  

  • The occupation code ‘1135 Human resource managers and directors’ has a going rate of £36,500 per annum / £18.72 ph based on a 37.5 hour work week.  

As this is below the £38,700 based on a 37.5 hour week, the new minimum threshold would presumably apply, or the migrant contracted to work a greater number of hours – 40 hours per week would take this role to an annual salary of £38,933.33.  

If the hours of a migrant are still relevant in the same way as currently, this increase could lead to risks of higher contracted hours and potentially risk employment law breaches. 

If the Home Office were concerned about the salaries migrants are earning in sponsored roles it could have a set minimum for each job code, rather than variable depending on hours.  This may be what the proposed ‘Immigration Salary List’ entails, or it may not. 

Closing the shortage occupation list 

To “crackdown on cut-price labour from overseas”, the government will end the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List, which will retain a general threshold discount.  

This may be a rebranding, but it is too soon to know.   The best way to deal with the ‘shortage occupation list’ would surely be to ensure that the UK workforce has ample engineers, programme developers, vets, architects, artists, bricklayers, roofers, carpenters, plasterers, care workers, pharmacists, nurses, radiographers, paramedics, maths teachers, etc. to  fill the roles, so that there is no shortage list at all, rather than to prevent people with appropriate skill from taking on a genuine role.    

It is not demonstrated that a NHS hospital hiring a nurse from overseas is paying that nurse less than a UK/settled equivalent, or that taking on a nurse from overseas keeps the pay of their colleagues down.  How the Immigration Salary list will function remains to be seen. 

The Press Release states that the Home Office 

“is prioritising growing our domestic workforce through our Back to Work Plan – a package of employment focused support that will help people stay healthy, get off benefits and move into work – as part of the Autumn Statement.”

Whether the domestic workforce is able to become healthy, cease claiming benefits and immediately commence a career in veterinary medicine or bricklaying, or as a developer, remains to be seen. 

There is no recognition of the price businesses already pay to sponsor migrant workers in the form of the Immigration Skills Charge – £364pa for small / medium business / £1000 pa for larger businesses, payable per sponsored migrant, in addition to the worker’s salary and normal PAYE contributions.

Health and Care Worker visas

The government will reduce the numbers of workers on the Health and Care visa by preventing overseas care workers from bringing their dependants to the UK.  In addition, care providers in England will now only be able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission.  

It is important that the Health and Care visa is not abused, and the Skilled Worker system does rely on trust – there are many instances of poor work conditions and the Home Office Sponsor Licence team is busy auditing / suspending and revoking many sponsor licences held by care companies.  

The above salary threshold is, however, not being brought in in relation to the Health and Care visa route: 

“Those coming on the Health and Care visa route will be exempted from the increase to the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas, so we can continue to bring the healthcare workers that our care sector and NHS need, and we will exempt those on national pay scales, for example teachers.”


The government announced its plan to remove the rights of students to bring partners and children to the UK, unless the student is studying for a postgraduate research course. 


Having closed the Tier 1 (Investor) route, the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route and the Sole Representative route to basically make all workers / persons wishing to undertake business in the UK either be ‘innovative’ or a sponsored worker, the ‘worker’ route is now under attack.   

Raising the salary threshold to well above the average UK full-time salary is clearly intended to reduce the number of workers from overseas.  As the UK population is finite and following the end of free movement rights, this does not seem likely to be beneficial for the economy, or address the many job shortages the shortage occupation list recognises.  

Preventing British and settled persons earning an average full-time salary in the UK from sponsoring a partner from overseas is going to have a disproportionate impact on those on lower incomes and families living outside of London.  Full-time salaries in areas such as the West-Midlands / North-East are unlikely to reach the threshold, particularly if a working spouse has caring responsibilities.  The increase is likely to disproportionately affect women looking to sponsor their partner when they have children / other responsibilities, as women are more likely to work part-time. 

In pricing out businesses and families, the government is failing to acknowledge the important financial contributions migrants make, not only in terms of visa application fees, paying the IHS charge, if students, paying course fees, if workers, doing work and paying tax, but also in spending in the UK: migrants eat, shop, pay bills, etc.  If the UK economy is to grow, jobs need to be filled and money needs to be spent.  

Preventing students who are not undertaking postgraduate research from bringing family members is potentially less damaging to the numbers of students, as the student route is not a direct route to settlement.  However, preventing care workers, who are on a 5-year route to settlement, from bringing family members to the UK is likely to reduce numbers of care worker applicants.  The prospect of having to work for five years and get indefinite leave to remain before bringing your family is unlikely to encourage more carers to move to the UK.  

In aiming to cut net migration in this way, the Home Secretary is likely going to cause harm.  

None of the categories addressed have anything to do with “illegal” immigration or asylum claims.  

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