The salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa has been headline news since the announcement of the precipitous net migration figures, a fortnight ago. The government has been under significant political pressure to announce how they intend to reduce net migration, in light of their previous pledge to 'take back control' of the post-Brexit migration system. The Skilled Worker visa is one element of the UK immigration system that has been targeted for reform.
The government response came on 4 December 2023, when the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, announced an unprecedented increase to the minimum salary threshold for those applying for a Skilled Worker visa. The salary threshold will be raised from £26,200 to £38,700 in Spring 2024. This figure is in excess of average gross annual earnings for full time employees in the UK, which was £34,963 in April 2023. This is part of the Government's 'five-point plan' which the Home Office ambitiously expects to reduce migration numbers by 300,000.
As yet, there is lack of clarity regarding how this change will be brought in (for example whether it will be staggered, or whether there will be a single increase). What is clear however, is the extent to which the decision to increase the threshold by almost 50%, will impact the UK labour market and the ability to recruit suitable employees in what Professor Brian Bell, the chair of the Migration Advisory Committed describes as 'middle skilled jobs'.
This point is illustrated by the Home Office's own guidance. Appendix Skilled Occupations, which forms part of the Immigration Rules, lists all the occupations which are eligible for a Skilled Worker visa and the 'going rate,' for each of these roles. 211 of the 226 roles listed in this Appendix have a 'going rate' of less than £38,700. The roles that fall in the 'middle-skilled bracket are diverse. They include electricians (for whom the going rate of £26,400 per year), engineering technicians (for whom the going rate is £29,200 per year) and probation officers (for whom the going rate is £33,1000 per year).
Businesses reliant on migrant workers in occupations that are typically paid under the £38,700 threshold will need to carefully plan their employment and recruitment strategy in light of these changes.
If you would like advice on the options available to your business, please contact Boodle Hatfield's immigration team who would be happy to assist.