Timeline of Recent and Forthcoming UK Immigration Rule Changes in 2024
As we step into the second month of 2024, the United Kingdom’s immigration landscape has already undergone significant transformations this year, fuelled by the government’s overarching goal of reducing net migration. These immigration changes not only reflect the priorities of the present government, but also hold profound implications for individuals, businesses, and families.
In this post, we present a timeline of the key amendments that have been made to the UK’s Immigration Rules so far this year. Additionally, we aim to assist readers in understanding the scheduled implementation dates for upcoming changes to the UK Immigration system in the early months of 2024.
For those who prefer a quick summary, the key dates and relevant changes to the Immigration Rules to be aware of are follows:
- 1 January 2024: UK Student Visa rules amended to prevent most international students from being accompanied or joined by a dependent whilst studying in the UK;
- 31 January 2024: Permitted activities for Visitors expanded, right to work conditions for Visitors amended to allow remote working, Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor route merged into the Standard Visitor route and new Appendix Bereaved Partner, Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse and Appendix Statelessness introduced;
- 1 February 2024: Electronic travel authorisation (ETA) application process opened for nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan;
- 6 February 2024: Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase by 66%;
- 13 February 2024: Fines for illegal working will triple under a new Civil Penalty regime;
- 11 March 2024: Care workers (SOC code 6145) and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) will not be permitted to bring dependents to the UK and care homes in England will be required to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in order to sponsor migrants under the Health and Care Worker visa route;
- 14 March 2024: A new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules will be laid before Parliament which will replace the existing Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with a new Immigration Salary List;
- 4 April 2024: The minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa will rise from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum;
- 6 April 2024: The requirement to renew Sponsor Licences will be removed;
- 11 April 2024: The minimum income requirement for partners applying under Appendix FM will be increased from £18,600 to £29,000.
1 January 2024: Changes to the UK Student Visa Rules For Dependants
On 1 January 2024, the UK Student Visa rules were amended to prevent most international students from being accompanied or joined by a dependent whilst studying in the UK.
The new student dependent rules apply to students who applied after 3pm on 17 July 2023 for a course of study commencing on or after 1 January 2024. Under the new rules, a student who commences their studies on or after 1 January 2024 may only bring dependents to the UK if they are either a full-time student on a PhD or doctorate degree or a research-based higher degree course that lasts 9 months or longer, or they are a government-sponsored student studying a course that lasts for more than 6 months.
In practice, this means that students studying a non-research based Master’s degree can no longer sponsor their dependents under the Student Visa route. As for undergraduate students, only Bachelor students who are on a government-sponsored programme, of at least 6 months, are now able to bring their dependents to the UK.
31 January 2024: Changes to the UK Visit Visa Rules
Three key changes were made to the UK’s Visit Visa rules at the end of January 2024.
On 31 January 2024, the range of permitted activities for Visitors was expanded, with the aim of making it easier for Visitors to do business in the UK. Notably, the prohibition on Business Visitors working directly with clients for intra-corporate activities was removed (although client-facing activity must be incidental to the visitor’s employment abroad and should not amount to the offshoring of a project or service to their overseas employer) and scientists, researchers, and academics can now engage in research activities beyond independent research for individual purposes.
Historically, Visitors to the UK have not been permitted to work in the UK or, with few exceptions, receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK. Whilst this basic principle remains, on 31 January 2024 the right to work conditions for Visitors were amended to allow Visitors to the UK to work remotely while in the UK. There is an important caveat however – the main purpose of the visit to the UK must be to undertake a permitted activity, rather than specifically to work remotely from the UK. In other words, remote working must not be the primary purpose of the visit.
Finally, on 31 January 2024 the Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor route was merged into the Standard Visitor route. This means that all visitors can now undertake permitted paid engagements without the need for a special visa. It’s crucial to note, however, that individuals intending to participate in a PPE must have arranged their activity before travelling to the UK. Additionally, the activity must be completed within 30 days of entry to the UK, even though the Visitor’s visa will be valid for 6 months.
Related post: Even More Changes to the UK’s Immigration Rules!
31 January 2024: Introduction of new Appendix Bereaved Partner, Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse and Appendix Statelessness
On 31 January 2024, the newly introduced Appendix Bereaved Partner took the place of existing provisions for bereaved partners and their dependent children found in Part 8, Appendix FM, and Appendix Armed Forces of the Immigration Rules. Of note, Appendix Bereaved Partner includes provisions for dependent children of Bereaved Partners, recognising the interconnected nature of family units affected by bereavement.
On the same day, Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse replaced existing provisions for Victims of Domestic Abuse and their dependent children in Part 8, Appendix FM and Appendix Armed Forces of the Immigration Rules. Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse allows victims of domestic abuse and their dependents to apply for entry clearance from outside the UK. This is particularly crucial for individuals who have been abandoned overseas as part of the domestic abuse they have endured.
Also on 31 January 2024, Appendix Statelessness replaced existing provisions for Stateless Persons in Part 14 of the Immigration Rules.
Related post: Even More Changes to the UK’s Immigration Rules!
1 February 2024: Changes to the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme
Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is a new requirement for passengers visiting or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have any other UK immigration status.
Qatari nationals have needed to apply for a UK Electronic Travel Authorisation since 25 October 2023.
On 1 February 2024, the electronic travel authorisation (ETA) application process opened for the remaining nationals of the Gulf states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) and Jordan. Nationals of these countries will be required to hold a UK ETA in order to visit or transit the UK from 22 February 2024.
Electronic Travel Authorisation will become mandatory for all other non-visa nationals before the end of 2024.
6 February 2024: Increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
The Immigration Health Surcharge is an upfront cost paid alongside the submission of (most) visa applications so that the individual is entitled to have full access to the National Health Service (NHS) whilst in the UK. There is no limit to how often one can access the NHS. Additionally, there is no option to opt out of the Immigration Health Surcharge even if an applicant believes that they will not use the NHS or would prefer to pay for private health care.
On 13 October 2023, the UK Government announced a substantial 66% increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). A delegated legislation committee of the House of Commons approved the Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023 on 16 January 2024. It has now been confirmed that the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will take effect from 6th February 2024.
On 6 February 2024, the Immigration Health Surcharge is increasing for students, student dependants, those applying for entry clearance or leave to remain under the Youth Mobility Scheme, and applications made by children under the age of 18 from £470 per year to £776 per year.
For all other relevant immigration categories for entry clearance or leave to remain in respect of persons aged 18 years or over at the date of application the Immigration Health Surcharge is increasing from £624 per year to £1,035 per year.
For details of persons who are not affected by the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) increase on 6 February 2024, please refer to our related post below.
Related post: IHS Fee Set to Increase 66% on 6 February 2024
13 February 2024: Increase in Fines for Illegal Working
A new civil penalty regime will come into force on 13 February 2024.
Currently, the civil penalty for employing an illegal worker is a maximum of £15,000 per illegal worker, where this is the employer’s first offence. If the employer is a repeat offender, the maximum fine increases to £20,000 per illegal worker.
The new civil penalty regime will increase the fine for employing an illegal worker to a maximum of £45,000 per illegal worker, for a first time offender. Repeat offenders will be subject to a maximum fine of £60,000 per illegal worker.
11 March 2024: Changes to Health and Care Worker Visa Rules For Dependants
The Health and Care Worker Visa is open to qualified doctors, nurses and other health and adult social care professionals who wish to undertake an eligible job with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.
Currently, all Health and Care Workers may be joined or accompanied by a dependent partner over the age of 18 and/or a dependent child under the age of 18.
However, from 11 March 2024, care workers (SOC code 6145) and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) will not be permitted to bring dependents to the UK.
Care workers and senior care workers already in the Health and Care Worker route will be able to remain with their dependants, including extending, changing employer (within the above SOC codes) and settlement.
Where a care worker or senior care worker is in the route before the Immigration Rules change, but has not yet brought dependents, they will still be allowed to bring dependents during their sponsorship on the route.
Additionally, from 11 March 2024, care homes in England will be required to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in order to sponsor migrants under the Health and Care Worker visa route.
Care providers who were sponsoring workers in exclusively non-regulated activities (and therefore were not required to be registered with the CQC) before the rules change will be able to continue to sponsor these workers, including for extensions to their visa on those terms, but not hire new ones.
These changes to the Health and Care Worker route will be brought in on 11 March 2024 via a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules that will be laid before Parliament on 19 February 2024.
14 March 2024: Introduction of a New Immigration Salary List
On 14 March 2024, a new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules will be laid before Parliament which will replace the existing Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with a new Immigration Salary List.
The new Immigration Salary List will remove the 20% going rate discount to the minimum salary for shortage occupation roles.
This follows a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which will now advise the government on which occupations should be temporarily added to the new list.
Employers should anticipate a reduction in the number of occupations on the list, potentially impacting recruitment strategies in specific industries.
4 April 2024: Increase in Skilled Worker Minimum Salary Threshold
On 4 April 2024, the minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa will rise from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum and individual occupation ‘going rate’ thresholds will rise in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs in 2023.
Those already on the Skilled Worker visa route before the Immigration Rules change will not be subject to the new threshold when they change employment, extend their stay or settle in the UK. The Home Office will, however, expect their pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle.
Those coming on the Health and Care Visa route will be exempt from the £38,700 salary threshold applicable to Skilled Workers, as will education workers in national pay-scale occupations.
These changes to the Skilled Worker route will be brought in on 4 April 2024 via a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules that will be laid before Parliament on 14 March 2024.
6 April 2024: Sponsor Licence Renewals Abolished
The Home Office has recently announced that from 6 April 2024, the requirement to renew Sponsor Licences will be removed.
At present, Sponsor Licences are valid for four years. If licence holders wish to keep their licence beyond the four years, they must make a paid renewal application.
From 6 April 2024, Sponsor Licence holders will no longer need to make a renewal application or pay a renewal fee. Instead, the expiry date of all sponsor licences will automatically be extended to expire in 10 years’ time.
This removal of the renewal requirement is being applied to all sponsor licences that are due to expire on or after 6 April 2024, and not only to new licences obtained after this date. The extension of the expiry date will be automatic and Sponsors will not be required to take any action.
Related post: Sponsor Licence Renewals Abolished from April 2024
11 April 2024: Increase in Minimum Income Requirement for Family Visas
On 11 April 2024, the minimum income requirement for partners applying under Appendix FM will increase from £18,600 to £29,000.
This change to the minimum income requirement for partners applying under Appendix FM will be brought in via a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules that will be laid before Parliament on 14 March 2024.
Individuals who are already on the five-year partner route before the minimum income requirement is increased on 11 April 2024 and who wish to apply to extend their stay or settle in the UK will continue to be assessed against the £18,600 income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold of £29,000.
Similarly, individuals who apply for a partner visa on the five-year partner route before the minimum income threshold is raised from £18,600 on 11 April 2024, will have their applications assessed against the current £18,600 income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold of £29,000
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