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Skilled Worker Visas – new salary thresholds

The Government published a new Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules on 14 March 2024, setting out some reforms to the UK’s immigration system.  These changes came into effect from 4 April 2024.

In summary, the changes which will be applicable to Skilled Worker applications are as follows:

  • Minimum salary threshold

The minimum salary threshold which employers need to pay Skilled Workers has increased to £38,700, for all future applications.  This figure has been based on the latest Office for National Statistics pay data.

  • Immigration Salary List

The previous ‘Shortage Occupation List’ is being replaced with a new ‘Immigration Salary List’ (ISL).  The change of name is intended to make it clear that the jobs appearing on the list are those in respect of which the Government considers it sensible to offer a discounted salary threshold, rather than it being a list of those occupations where a labour shortage is being experienced at a given time.   Any jobs which appear on this list will have a 20% discount to the general salary threshold.  There are noticeably fewer roles on the ISL, however, such that the number of roles which could benefit from the discount has been significantly reduced. 

  • The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code system

The SOC code system, which is used for all jobs/roles in the UK, has been updated.  Job codes and descriptions may be different under the new system.  Any Certificates of Sponsorship issued from 4 April 2024 will need to use the new coding system.  It is important that any Skilled Worker extension applications, as well as applications for new hires, adopt the new SOC codes (i.e., do not rely on previous job codes).

  • Salary requirements for other work immigration routes

There are also changes to salary requirements for other business immigration routes, including a new general salary threshold for the Senior or Specialist Worker (Global Business Mobility) route, which is being increased from £45,800 to £48,500, and an increased general salary threshold under the Graduate Trainee route to £25,410.

Practical Considerations

Employers must ensure that the new provisions are being carefully followed in relation to new recruits, both in terms of salary requirements, the ISL, and SOC codes.  It is also sensible for employers to review their current work force, to ascertain how salary levels compare against the new requirements.

Employers who are looking to sponsor any overseas nationals in the near future, should consider any recruitment discussions to date, whether there are any existing job offers, and how the new requirements impact on the need of the business to recruit.

This is a good opportunity for employers to review their approach to sponsoring Skilled Workers, and to undertake an audit of personnel files to check that all the necessary paperwork (for example, in respect of right to work checks and visa expiry dates) is in place.