Forthcoming drastic changes to the immigration rules
One of the arguments in the long-running Brexit debate was that by being in the EU the UK had lost control of its borders: it could not control inward migration, and it just could not cope adequately with the numbers coming in.
This was largely true – as shown for example in the housing market – but when Brexit happened the situation changed: roughly speaking EEA and Swiss nationals now have only similar rights as those of other nationalities, and they now require visas to come to the UK to work, study or join family, whereas previously under European free movement law they did not.
This surely must have made a difference, but evidently not enough. Latest figures show that net migration to the UK is still increasing, despite Brexit having been done.
The Government has become very concerned about this, and particularly so perhaps because there is likely to be a General Election some time next year, or at the latest in January 2025, and this is perceived to be a sensitive and crucial political issue.
In response to this dire situation the Government, and more specifically the Home Secretary James Cleverly, has announced some very deep proposed restrictive changes to the immigration rules – ie the rules that determine who can come to the UK and under what requirements. These changes (which are very likely to become law) include that:
- Migrants on care worker visas will no longer be able to bring dependants to the UK
- The minimum permitted salary for migrants on skilled worker visas (except for health and care worker visas and education worker visas) will significantly increase from £26,200 to £38,700
- The minimum required salary for British/settled people who sponsor partners from outside the UK will significantly increase and more than double, from £18,600 to £38,700
- The Graduate visa route, which enables graduate students to switch to a working route, will be re-assessed (probably in a negative spirit we should imagine)
Additionally to this, rules already in place state that from January 2024 students will no longer be able to bring dependants to the UK unless they are studying a course such as a doctorate or research-based higher degree – which will no doubt be only a small minority of students.
And, on top of all this, and as has already been announced, the Immigration Health Surcharge (a charge which is payable along with the visa application fee and which the Home Office passes on to the NHS) will increase by 66% – another hefty increase. Applicants who are liable to pay it (which is most of them) will end up paying either – depending on the visa category – £776 per year or £1,035 per year.
Taken all together, this constitutes a huge discouragement to immigration to the UK, and it is fair to say that it comes as a bit of a shock to most people. To take the most egregious example, even sponsors living in London and the South-East may struggle to show a salary of £38,700, let alone those living in other parts of the country, where salaries are generally lower. We think that it is very likely that some of these new rules will be challenged in the courts and if so it will be interesting to see what the courts make of it.
We will in any case keep a close eye on this and see how it develops. The new rules and the increase in the IHS are likely to come into effect some time early next year. We assume that those who already hold visas in the UK will not be affected by these changes but we shall have to wait and see what exactly the new rules say.
In the meantime, if you are thinking about applying for a UK visa, now could be the time, before the rules and fees change. If you have any issues in this area we at GSN Immigration can give you the best advice available.
Senior Immigration Lawyer