U.K. Home Secretary also commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to review the Shortage Occupation List that will be renamed the Immigration Salary List
Existing holders of Skilled Worker visas in the U.K. will be exempt from the planned 48 percent increase in threshold salary, the Home Secretary has said while commissioning a rapid review of the country’s Shortage Occupation List.
The Government plans to raise the minimum salary needed to qualify for a work visa to £38,700 from April from the existing £26,200 but "those already in the Skilled Worker route before the Immigration Rules changes should be exempt from the new median salary levels when they change sponsor, extend, or settle", Cleverly said in a statement dated 17 January and posted on the U.K. government website.
The £26,200 figure is the 25th percentile in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data from 2021, while the new £38,700 salary is based on the 50th percentile under ONS ASHE data from 2023.
The government, however, expects Skilled Workers’ pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers; therefore, they would be subject to the updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data – ASHE 2023 – when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay, or settle, the statement said.
The new threshold salary for Skilled Workers was part of several changes announced by Cleverly on 4 December to curb net migration, which climbed to a record 745,000 in 2022, about three times the annual average before the pandemic. Curbing the inflow of foreigners was a key election plank of the Conservative Party.
The Home Secretary also commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to carry out a rapid review of the country’s Shortage Occupation List and accepted its recommendation to rename it the Immigration Salary List.
He asked MAC to submit its report by 23 February 2024 so that its recommendations can be implemented by April and said it will shortly commission a fuller review of the list for the future as well as of the parameters and timings of the graduate visa route.
Cleverly also accepted MAC’s October 2023 recommendation to do away with the 20 percent going rate wage discount for occupations on the new Immigration Salary List that will be introduced from April 2024.
Foreigners applying for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List are charged lower visa fees and can be paid 80 percent of the job's going rate and still qualify for a work visa. Currently, in most cases foreign nationals must earn at least £26,200 to qualify, although this can decline to £20,960 if they are taking up a job on the shortage list.
Migrants entering the U.K. through the Health and Social Care Visa route will be exempt from the specific £38,700 salary threshold requirement applied to Skilled Workers due to the shortage of healthcare professionals, according to the Home Office statement. It also exempted workers in national pay scale occupations, which will continue to be subject to their relevant occupational pay scales.
In October, MAC suggested including just eight occupations — some in the building trade and care sector — to the U.K.-wide Shortage Occupation List and a further two to the Scotland-only list if the government chose to continue with it. The Home Office also confirmed it would adopt the Office for National Statistics’ Standard Occupation Code 2020 alongside the other changes in April 2024 as the MAC recommended in October.
"As with the SOL, roles should only be included on the ISL where they are skilled, where there is a shortage of suitable resident workers available, and where it is sensible for immigration to be a part of the solution, at least in the short term," according to the statement. "No sector should be permanently reliant on immigration and roles should not remain on the ISL forever."
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