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Home secretary announces a five-point plan to reduce net migration

Posted: 06/12/2023

In a statement made to Parliament on 4 December 2023, the Home Secretary, James Cleverley, announced proposed changes which are due to come in the spring of next year. 

Below is a summary of the five-point plan, the details of which are expected to be provided in a statement of changes, which will be published nearer the time. 

1. Skilled Worker visa route  

The minimum salary threshold is set to increase from £26,200 by nearly 50% to £38,700. This will not apply to:

  • those being sponsored under the Health and Care Worker visa route (the current minimum is £20,960);
  • those subject to national pay scales ie medical and education roles.  

It is likely that the rules, once announced, will include transitional provisions for those who are already sponsored and need to extend their stay. It is also not clear on whether the ‘going rate’ salary for the specific role will also be reviewed in line with this increase.

2. Shortage Occupation List 

  • The 20% reduction to the ‘going rate’ salary for shortage occupation will be removed.
  • The Shortage Occupation List is set to be replaced with the new ‘Immigration Salary List’ which will retain a general threshold discount. This is expected to be a reduction to the £38,700 salary minimum, but further details are awaited.
  • The Migration Advisory Committee will be asked to review the new Immigration Salary List against the increased salary thresholds in order to reduce the number of occupations on the list. 

3. Care sector 

  • Those entering under the Health and Care Worker visa route ie medical professionals coming to work for the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care will no longer be able to bring their dependants.
  • Care providers will only be able to sponsor overseas workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – this is nothing new as to obtain a sponsor licence the care home has to provide evidence of being regulated by the CQC.    

4. Family visa route – partners of British citizens and those settled in the UK 

The minimum income level is set to increase from £18,600 to £38,700 – this represents an unprecedented increase which is not justified and is likely to be challenged.

5. Graduate and Student visa routes

  • The Migration Advisory Committee will be asked to review the Graduate visa route to ensure it works in the best interests of the UK and to ensure steps are being taken to prevent abuse.
  • This has already been announced, but, by way of reminder, for courses commencing from 1 January 2024, international students will not be able to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate research courses.  

Other proposed changes already announced 

  • Immigration health surcharge – this is set to increase from £624 to £1,035 from 16 January 2024. This is subject to parliamentary approval. However, given the additional cost, this should form part of your consideration when deciding on the period of sponsorship. 
  • Civil penalty for non-compliant employers and private rental sector landlords is set to increase from January 2024.
    • Employers – first breach is set to increase from £15,000 to £45,000 per worker, with repeat breaches (within three years) increasing to £60,000 per worker.
    • Landlords – first breach is set to increase from £1,000 to £10,000 per occupier, with repeat breaches (within three years) increasing to £20,000 per occupier.
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement included the following proposed changes:  
    • Business visitors – there are proposed changes coming in January 2024 to: broaden and clarify the activities that can be undertaken in an intra-corporate setting; offer wider coverage for the legal services sector; and simplify arrangements for those undertaking permitted paid engagements.
    • During 2024 the government will explore further improvements to the business visitor rules alongside the potential for further enhanced provisions linked to trade negotiations.
    • The government is also exploring the expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) to include new countries and increasing the length of stay for individuals from some existing countries. For example, from 31 January 2024, nationals from Australia, and Canada will be able stay for up to three years.

Given the proposed changes, it is vital that businesses consider their hiring needs early and plan ahead. Businesses should also note that whilst these announcements are to target the net migration figures, the Home Office are also increasing Home Office visits and applying additional scrutiny to applications as part of an overall focus on compliance. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any queries or concerns on how this impact you or your business at  

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