< back

Immigration changes: What employers need to know

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick

13 March 2023

The Home Office has issued its annual Spring Statement of Changes to immigration rules. Vanessa Ganguin outlines the key developments HR and hiring teams need to be aware of.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has presented the Spring Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules to Parliament. This reflects recent legislation and tweaks the Home Secretary has made to immigration routes.

It’s a dry read (with an explanatory memorandum) but we have examined the 185 pages to pick out the main changes that employers should be aware of.

Minimum wages go up to sponsor employees

In bad news for UK employers sponsoring overseas staff – but great news for staff – minimum salary levels have been increased to reflect current wage inflation.

Companies with sponsor licences can sponsor migrant workers if the roles meet certain requirements, including minimum salaries – which will be going up on 12 April 2023.

UK Visas and Immigration used to uprate wages in every Spring Statement of Changes, but the Migration Advisory Committee reminded them that they haven’t been doing this consistently in the past few years, so this will be a noticeable rise for any new sponsored employees.

These changes are to ensure that migrant worker salaries keep pace with changes in the labour market and do not undercut resident workers’ pay.

This will apply to all new people on sponsored immigration routes, such as Skilled Worker visas (up from £25,600 to £26,200), scale-up visas (£33,000 up to £34,600), Global Business Mobility Senior and Specialist Workers visas and UK Expansion Worker visas (£42,400 up to £45,800) and Graduate Trainee visas (£23,100 up to £24,220).

They have also updated the going rates for the various occupational classification codes for different jobs according to the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data from the Office for National Statistics.

These rates are now worked out at 37.5 hours a week, rather than the current 39 hours to update to a more common working pattern. The rules include instructions for different shift patterns too.

Following a report by the Migration Observatory and UK In A Changing Europe, which found that immigration controls were not leading to higher pay, the Migration Advisory Committee had said they intend to advise the government to abolish the 20% discount to the going rate for shortage occupations.

While this may happen at some point in the future to sponsored roles on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List (such as senior care workers, vets, lab technicians and programmers), for now there is no change in the immigration rules.

Roles on the shortage occupation list for now continue to benefit from both a lower base threshold and also a 20% reduction on the going rate.

Concerned employers and others are invited to respond to the committee’s call for evidence in its review of shortage occupations which closes on 26 May.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme launches this year

Those hiring using the current Creative Worker route for productions etc, or with clients visiting and/or international staff attending business meetings in the UK should be aware that the UK is set to adopt a digital travel authorisation system, much like the USA’s ESTA.

The EU is due to adopt a similar system, with visitors not enjoying free movement with the EU paying a small fee to fill out the ETIAS online form.

The new online ETA will be rolled out to visitors from Qatar first this autumn, followed by Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates next February.

By the end of 2024, the new online security vetting form will be a requirement worldwide for visitors who do not currently need a visa for short stays, including those visiting from Europe, Australia and the US.

British and Irish nationals will not need an ETA to travel to the UK, nor will anyone with a visa to enter the UK or permission to live, work or study in the UK.

The ETA will allow people two years to visit the UK as many times as they want for up to six months, or for up to three months on the Creative Worker visa concession.

Start-up visa to end – new Innovator Founder route opens

The government has announced that they will be making changes to the Innovator visa category which will make the Start-up visa obsolete, so they will be closing this category to new applicants when the new Innovator Founder route opens on 13 April 2023.

For founders, the changes to the Innovator route make it easier to qualify and establish a business in the UK, while also allowing them to take on outside work to support themselves while waiting for the business to start generating an income.