More changes to the immigration routes – what you need to know and why?

Following on from the recent announcements regarding the India Young Professionals Scheme (India Young Professionals Scheme visa (shoosmiths.co.uk), the Home Office released (rather unexpectedly) changes to the immigration rules from 9 March 2023. 

Those that have got the headlines include:

  • Changes to salary thresholds and working hours under the Skilled Worker route
  • Expansion and changes to the GBM routes (Scale up, Expansion and Senior and Specialist)
  • More detail on the upcoming Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme 
  • Re-vamp of the Innovator visa; and
  • Closure of the Start Up route. 

Skilled Worker - Changes to salary thresholds

From 12 April 2023, the general salary threshold for sponsorship on the Skilled Worker route will increase from £25,600 to £26,200. 

The salary thresholds for the tradeable points options will also increased and will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Option B: where the applicant has a PhD in a subject relevant to the job: 90% of the going rate and £23,580 per annum
  • Option C: where the applicant has a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job: 80% of the going rate and £20,960 per annum
  • Option D: where the position is on the shortage occupation list: 80% of the going rate and £20,960 per annum
  • Option E: where the applicant meets the definition of new entrant: 70% of the going rate and £20,960 per annum
  • Option F: where the job is in a listed health or education occupation: the going rate for the occupation code and £20,960 per annum

Changes to working hours

The minimum hourly rate is increasing to £10.75 per hour and the going rates will be calculated on a 37.5 hour working week, rather than the 39-hour working week previously which has resulted in a reduction in the going rate for some occupation codes, e.g., the going rate for Mechanical Engineers (SoC code 2122) is currently £33,400 per annum (£16.47 per hour) and will become £33,000 per annum (£16.92 per hour).

Interestingly and ironically both the hourly rate and annual salary threshold for some SoC codes will decrease, e.g. Chief Executives and Senior Officials (SoC code 1115) will be reduced from £67,300 to £59,300 whilst the hourly rate for the same code will be reduced from £33.19 to £30.41.

Salary thresholds for GBM Senior and Specialist Worker and Scale up

The minimum salary threshold for sponsorship will be £45,800 and on the Graduate Trainee Route will be £24,220. The minimum salary threshold for Scale Up Workers will increase to £34,600.

Salary calculation for irregular shift patterns (for sponsored workers)

Helpfully, the rules will now confirm how salaries are to be calculated for sponsored workers that do not work the same hours each week. In such cases, work in excess of 48 hours per week can be counted where the average over a regular cycle is not more than 48 hours a week. The ‘cycle’ for these purposes can be less than but not more than 17 weeks (so in line with the reference period under the Working Time Regulations).

Any unpaid rest weeks will count towards the average but will not count as absences from employment. This is a welcome clarification as more and more individuals are working non-standard weeks and this clarification will give sponsored workers and sponsors peace of mind knowing how the Home Office will assess the salary requirement in these scenarios. 

This applies to sponsored workers in the Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility routes.

Australians on the GBM Expansion Worker Route

In reflection of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement, Australian nationals and permanent residents coming to the UK on the Expansion Worker route do not need to show that they have worked for their overseas employer for 12 months before coming to the UK.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme

The ETA scheme will come into force on 13 April 2023. It applies to:

  • anyone that is not British or Irish who wants to visit or transit through the UK; and
  • who do not currently need a visa for short stays.

It also applies those using the Creative Worker route for a short stay.

From 15 November 2023 – it applies to nationals of Qatar

From 15 February 2024 – it applies to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

An important and significant point to note is that residents of Ireland that do not need a visa will not need to apply for an ETA to enter the UK for a visit.

ETA applications will be made using the specific app or online. Exact details have yet to be released.

Decisions should be issued within three working days and will be electronic and linked to the applicant’s passport

New Innovator Founder Route

This route is a replacement for the Start Up and Innovator routes which had been largely underused. The aim is to introduce a more flexible route to make it easier for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and with sufficient funds to enter the UK to establish this business.

Applicants will still need to have the support of an endorsing body, however, there will no longer be the requirement to have a minimum of £50,000 in available investment funds. Innovator visa holders will also be permitted to take up employment outside of the running of their business, as long as this additional employment is in a skilled role, at least RQF Level 3, which is the same skill level required for a Skilled Worker visa.

As a result of these changes, the Start Up route is closing to initial applicants, except from where they are supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2023.

Summary

Employers need to ensure that any for any new sponsored candidates with certificates of sponsorship assigned from 12 April 2023 onwards that they meet the new salary requirements.

Join our immigration specialists Rachel Harvey and Pavan Sumal who are delivering a webinar on the changes and taking a look back at developments from 2022 including in relation to right to work checks.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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