How Immigration Rule Changes in 2024 Impact Family and Work Visas

Does Immigration Cause Unemployment?

Due to the increase in net migration in 2022, ministers announced plans to curb migration to the UK by bringing in new changes to the visa system in 2024. Having stopped most student visa holders bringing family with them on 1 January 2024, other changes, predominantly to Work and Family visas, are also coming into action in Spring 2024.

The new changes impact new applicants in many ways, making it harder to apply for Work and Family visas; let’s look at what these changes are so you can understand the new regulations when applying to move to the UK to work or join a family member.

New Changes to Work Visas

New Changes to Work Visas

There are several types of work visas for the UK depending on the type of work an individual intends to do in the UK, from care work, to teaching to running a business. Not every work visa is facing changes in 2024; the most significant changes are affecting the Skilled Worker visa, formerly the Tier 2 visa, and the Health and Care Worker visa.

For these visas, applicants need a job offer from an approved business or organisation for a job on the list of eligible occupations for that visa, and be offered at least the minimum salary for that job.

On the 4th April, the minimum salary for Skilled Worker visa applicants increased from £26,200 per year (or £10.75 per hour) to £38,700 per year. This very steep jump in minimum salary is intended to dissuade employers from employing foreign workers in an effort to reduce immigration to the UK and reduce the UK’s unemployment rate of approximately 3.8%.

Health and Care Worker visa holders working in social care are also no longer allowed to bring their dependants to the UK with them when the new changes are brought in. Dependants refer to partners or spouses and children under 18 who are not living independently i.e. working or married.

The list of eligible occupations also changes to reflect the need for workers (or lack of) in different areas and industries, so it’s important to check your job is still on the list before applying for a work visa for the UK.

Are There Exceptions?

Social care workers and some educational workers applying for the Health and Care Worker visa do not have to meet the new minimum salary of £38,700, and will be expected to earn the ‘going rate’ or £29,000 for the job instead. Skilled workers must also be paid the going rate for their jobs if this is higher than the minimum salary.

New Changes to Family Visas

New Changes to Family Visas

The application process for Family visas is also largely staying the same, however, the minimum income required from the sponsor for Partner or Spouse visas is set to change in Spring 2024 from £18,600 to £29,000 per year. Originally it was announced that the minimum income would rise to £38,700 but after significant backlash, this was changed to £29,00 for the time being, although it is still set to reach £38,700 gradually over the next 12 months, with another expected increase in Autumn 2024.

Family visas are a group of visas including:

  • Partner or Spouse visa
  • Parent visa
  • Child Dependant visa
  • Adult Dependant Relative visa

The minimum income for the sponsor of other Family visas is not set to change; the minimum income hike is only for sponsors of partners or spouses of British citizens or residents. When you sponsor a Family visa in the UK, you need to ensure that you and your partner are eligible for the visa and provide both individual’s identity documents with the application. The sponsor does not complete the application, but the foreign national wishing to come to the UK must apply online and submit their supporting documents as well as pay the application fee.

For the initial application, it’s only the visa sponsor’s income that is counted towards the minimum income requirement, so they alone will have to earn at least £29,000 a year from Spring 2024. However, when the applicant extends their visa towards the end of 2 years and 9 months in the UK, the joint income of both people counts towards the £29,000 total income. In most cases, the sponsor must be earning the set income for at least six months before their partner starts their application.

Family Visa Application Information

Family Visa Application Information

The process for Family visa applications remains the same, and, apart from the higher income threshold for sponsors of partners and spouses (including civil partners), the same people are eligible to sponsor and apply for the Family visa in Spring 2024 as before.

Family visa sponsors must have either:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • Indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
  • Pre-settled status (and from the EU or EEA)
  • a Turkish Businessperson or Turkish Worker visa
  • Protected status
  • Permission to stay as a stateless person

Your sponsor cannot be in the UK on any temporary visa, and you cannot switch to a Family visa from a short-term visa such as a Standard Visitor visa or a Short-Term Study visa. Your sponsor doesn’t need to write an invitation letter, but if you believe it will help your application, you can submit one with your other supporting documents. The visa processing time has changed slightly, with applications from inside the UK still taking up to 8 weeks, but those submitted from outside the UK now taking up to 24 weeks, with no explanation given for the delay.

Are There Other Visa Changes in 2024?

The changes to the Work and Family visas are not the only ones in 2024, with applicants for Student visas also seeing further restrictions come into place. Since 1 January 2024, only students studying research-based courses above degree level including PhDs and research-based Master’s degrees have been able to bring their dependants to the UK with them.

It is also unclear whether the minimum savings threshold for Partner or Spouse visa sponsors is changing, with conflicting and confusing information on the Commons Library. Currently, if you do not meet the income threshold, you can still sponsor your partner’s visa if you have at least £16,000 in savings. This may increase in line with the minimum income raise, but exact figures have not been laid out.

When Do the Changes Come in?

When Do the Changes Come in?

Most of the visa changes come in in Spring 2024, although on different dates. The changes to student visas began on 1 January 2024, but the Work visa and Partner or Spouse visa changes come in on the following dates:

  • 11 March 2024 – Care Workers can no longer bring dependants
  • 4 April 2024 – Skilled Worker minimum salary increases
  • 4 April 2024 – Potential changes to the Shortage Occupation List
  • 11 April 2024 – Partner or Spouse visa minimum income increases
  • 14 May 2024 – Publishing of the report on the Graduate visa, with visa changes likely

Do the Changes Affect Current Visa Holders?

Although the visa changes are significant and naturally scary for new applicants and visa holders alike, the changes coming into place will only affect first-time applicants and not those currently on visas. For example, if you’re in the UK with a Skilled Worker visa, your salary does not have to increase to meet the new threshold, and the family members of care workers do not have to leave the country.

When you apply to extend your visa from the UK, provided you still meet the original terms of your visa, you also do not have to meet the new visa changes such as income threshold or dependant limitations.

However, when you become eligible, it’s highly recommended to apply for ILR and later citizenship to further protect your rights in the UK and remove the limitations being placed on you.

Need Assistance? Contact Synergy Immigration Solutions

If you need assistance with your application or advice on your situation, contact Synergy Immigration Solutions today!

Or check out some of our other blogs about family visas including those on:

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