As the UK steps into 2024, it does so with a number of reforms to immigration rules that signal significant changes in sectors ranging from employment to family migration. Some have already been implemented but the most immediate upcoming revision comes in the form of considerably increased penalties for companies caught dabbling in illegal employment activities; however, other critical amendments are in the pipeline. This article will examine each of these pending changes, offering insights on what lies ahead for 2024.
Stricter Penalties for Illegitimate Work Practices – 13th February, 2024
Significantly increased civil penalties will be imposed on employers who engage in unlawful work practices. This measure aims to deter non-compliance and ensure that employers adhere to legal employment standards.
According to the UK government, the penalties for first-time breaches will increase from £15,000 to up to £45,000 per worker, and from £45,000 to up to £60,000 for repeat breaches. Employers found to be in breach of their duties could also face criminal prosecution.
The increase in civil penalties emphasises the importance of employers having the proper processes in place and understanding how to comply with the law.
Updated Restrictions Concerning Care Workers – 11th March, 2024
Care workers and senior care workers will face new restrictions, including a prohibition on bringing dependents to the UK. Additionally, care facilities in England must meet Care Quality Commission (CQC) standards to sponsor migrants.
The changes are part of the UK government’s broader efforts to reform legal migration rules for family and work visas, with a focus on reducing net migration and curbing abuse of the Health and Care visa route.
Fresh Statement of Amendments to Immigration Rules – 14th March, 2024
The fresh Statement of Amendments to Immigration Rules, set to be implemented on 14th March, 2024, will introduce a significant change by replacing the Shortage Occupation List with an Immigration Salary List. This move is aimed at aligning immigration more closely with the UK labour market’s needs.
The revision of visa regulations is typically carried out through such statements of changes to the UK Immigration Rules.
Elevation of Minimum Salary Threshold – 4th April, 2024
The minimum salary requirement for the Skilled Worker visa will increase from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum. This significant increase, by 48%, may impact prospective skilled migrants’ ability to work in the UK, particularly those in middle-skilled jobs whose current salaries tend to hover around the existing threshold.
However, various exemptions will apply, such as for health and care workers, individuals on national pay scales, and those in shortage occupations.
The increase is aimed at ensuring that the immigration system attracts highly paid talent from around the world and prevents undercutting of UK workers.
Abolition of Sponsor Licence Renewal Requirement – 6th April, 2024
The process of renewing Sponsor Licences will be abolished, simplifying the sponsorship system for employers. Previously, Sponsor Licences were valid for four years, and licence holders had to go through a renewal process to extend their licence. As a result, UK Sponsor Licences due to expire on or after 6th April 2024 will be automatically extended, and the process of renewing them will no longer be necessary.
Increase to the Minimum Income Requirement – 11th April, 2024
The minimum income requirement for partners applying under Appendix FM (which sets out the requirements for individuals seeking to enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family life with either a British citizen, a settled person, a refugee, or someone with humanitarian protection) will rise from £18,600 to £29,000, potentially affecting the financial feasibility of some couples to settle in the UK. This change may impact lower earners, such as women and young people, as the new threshold is higher than the median employee’s salary of £29,700.
The introduction of this new income requirement represents a substantially more restrictive family migration policy in the UK.
In the wake of these updates to UK immigration rules, it’s understandable that individuals and businesses are left grappling with the implications. As the year progresses, it is crucial to keep abreast of these changes and understand their potential impact on migration to the UK. While the journey towards understanding and compliance may seem daunting, professional guidance can streamline the process, ensuring you’re prepared irrespective of what the future holds.