Conference room new salary rates

New immigration rules herald major changes to salary rates

In a wide-ranging Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules published yesterday, 14 March 2024, the government set out new salary thresholds for sponsored workers which will come into effect from 4 April. The changes also confirm increased financial requirements for partners of British citizens, and various other amendments, for example to long residence applications. Here we summarise the key changes, for sponsors and partners. For detailed advice on your own requirements, call the team at Latitude Law on 0300 131 6767 or fill in our contact form.

Sponsored Work – Salary Thresholds

  • Existing salaries will continue to apply to Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned to workers before 4 April. Note that the related visa or permission to stay application does not have to be made before 4 April to benefit from current rates; a CoS must be used within 3 months of assignment, so that gives a latest date for applying using the old rates of 3 July 2024.
  • The Home Office will now use an updated set of Standard Occupation Classification Codes (SOCC)– the 2020 data, rather than the 2010 list. Some new codes appear, some old ones disappear – workers sponsored under defunct SOCC will continue to be able to reference the 2010 list in their extension and settlement applications.
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) pay data on which these new rates are based changes from the ASHE 2021 to the ASHE 2023 figures; with recent inflation at high levels, this means some significant increases to salary rates in particular roles.
  • CoS issued on or after 4 April 2024 are subject to the new rates. The general salary threshold of £26,200 rises to £38,700. For individual SOCC, the rate increases from the 25th centile in ONS pay data, to the 50th centile, or ‘median’ level. This adds to the big hikes in salary for many occupations.
  • The centile changes won’t apply to Health and Care visas or jobs where rates are set using national pay scales such as (most) teachers, where salaries will remain set at the 25th The general threshold here is £23,200, up from £20,960.
  • Discounting will continue for a range of workers, notably new entrants to the labour market as previously understood. So, this covers students, graduates and those under 26. For them, based on the same 70% discount as before, the general salary threshold is £30,960. For individual SOCC, rates increase from the 25th to the 50th centile of ONS 2020 pay data, meaning some big rises for particular jobs.
  • For PhD applicants, the discount remains at 90%. The general threshold increases from £23,580 to £34,830, and individual SOCC are set at the 50th centile instead of the 25th. A PhD in a STEM subject attracts an 80% discount, which gives a general threshold of £30,960, up from £20,960, and the same centile increase for individual SOCC.
  • The Shortage Occupation List is replaced by a much shorter Immigration Salary List (ISL). Here a general salary threshold of £30,960 will apply, with going rates for individual SOCC rising from the 25th to the 50th The new rules remove going rate discounting for ISL jobs.
  • Importantly, discounting has also been introduced for workers already sponsored before 4 April 2024 who need to extend their stay or settle in the UK. These ‘transitional salary thresholds’ carry a general threshold of £29,000 (up from £26,200) or the ‘going rate’ for the SOCC set at the 25th centile under 2020 ONS data. This is a huge benefit to employers of overseas staff already in the skilled worker route who will not face the need to pay much higher salaries when a visa needs to be renewed. These transitional rules will remain in place for applications made before 3 April 2030, giving much-needed certainty to employers.

A couple of examples

  • Shortage occupation role

Let’s consider current (2010) SOCC 2137 Web design and development professionals. Under the current rules, the standard salary minimum is £26,800. But this is a role included in the SOL, so it qualifies for an 80% discount, giving a minimum of £21,440.

From 4 April, the new (2020) SOCC 2137 covers IT network professionals, but importantly it does not include the old (2010) code 2137. Instead, we must look at the successor codes to 2137 for the most appropriate fit.  If we settle on SOCC 2139 IT professionals not elsewhere classified, the standard minimum salary rises from the 25th to the 50th centile based on ONS 2023 data, giving a starting point of £42,800, a huge 60% increase.

If we had to choose as successor code 2134 Programmers and software development professionals, the figure is £49,400, up 84%.

None of these SOCC are included in the ISL, so no shortage occupation discounting applies to those new to these sponsored work codes.

These rises are likely to have a huge impact on the recruitment of overseas staff into such roles.

For a worker already sponsored as a SOL hire in this SOCC who needs to extend their visa or settle with their current employer, transitional rules give a going rate for SOCC 2139 of £25,280; for SOCC 2134 it is £29,040.  Inclusion on the SOL passports the worker to continued discounting at extension stage (at least that was the intention, but a drafting error appears in the Rules preventing this at present), despite the fact that their role is not on the ISL. Note these discounts will not apply to settlement applications, nor if switching employers.

  • New entrant extending

A sales executive is sponsored under (2010) SOCC 3545 Sales accounts and business development managers as a new entrant, having switched from a Graduate visa. With the 70% discount available to them under existing rules, their minimum salary is £24,570. They will complete the maximum 4 years as a new entrant in May 2024, so must extend under new rules.

Transitional provisions apply; SOCC 3545 is no more, so we look at replacement codes. Using (2020) SOCC 3556 Sales accounts and business development managers, the transitional going rate is £39,100. If this worker were starting out as a new entrant sales executive after 4 April 2024, their salary would have to be at least £36,750, an increase of almost 50% on existing rates.

Other sponsored work changes

In unexpected changes to supplementary work rules, the government will no longer require such work to be either in the same SOCC as the sponsored position, or in a SOL / ISL role.  Instead, sponsored workers will be able to do upto 20 hours per week of supplementary work in any role that is capable of sponsorship under skilled worker rules.

Salary thresholds in Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes – senior / specialist worker and expansion worker – will rise from £45,800 to £48,500. The ‘high earner’ threshold remains at £73,900.

For graduate trainees, the threshold rises from £24,220 to £25,410.

Partner route changes

As already announced, the sponsoring British or settled citizen must from 11 April 2024 show an income of £29,000 in order to sponsor their partner, up from £18,600. The savings figure rises from £62,500 to £88,500. Children applying alongside a partner will no longer add to the calculations.

Transitional arrangements mean that an applicant already in the partner (or parent) route will still be able to rely on the old income and savings figures, but their applying children will continue to add to the sums, to a maximum of £29,000 income / £88,500 savings.

Get in touch with one of our specialist lawyers to help you navigate this complex set of updates to the Immigration Rules. Call today on 0300 131 6767 or fill in our contact form below.

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