The Home Office has published its annual Spring Statement of Changes to immigration rules, highlighting key updates that HR and hiring teams should be aware of.
Increased minimum salaries
While UK employers sponsoring overseas staff may face challenges due to increased minimum salary levels, it is a positive development for the staff as it reflects current wage inflation. Companies holding sponsor licenses can sponsor migrant workers if the roles meet specific criteria, including minimum salaries, which are set to increase on April 12, 2023. UK Visas and Immigration previously adjusted wages in every Spring Statement of Changes, but inconsistencies in recent years mean the upcoming increase will be more noticeable for new sponsored employees.
These adjustments aim to ensure that migrant worker salaries remain in line with labour market changes and do not undermine resident workers’ wages. This change will impact all new individuals on sponsored immigration routes, such as Skilled Worker visas, scale-up visas, and Graduate Trainee visas. Additionally, the going rates for various occupational classification codes have been updated based on the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data.
The Migration Advisory Committee has expressed its intention to advise the government to abolish the 20% discount on the going rate for shortage occupations in response to a report indicating that immigration controls did not lead to higher pay. While this change may occur for certain sponsored roles on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List in the future, the current immigration rules remain unchanged. Employers and other concerned parties are encouraged to respond to the committee’s call for evidence in its review of shortage occupations, which closes on May 26.
ETA system for visitors
Employers hiring through the Creative Worker route for productions and other purposes, or those hosting international clients and staff for business meetings in the UK, should be aware that the country plans to introduce a digital travel authorization system similar to the US’s ESTA. The EU is also expected to implement a comparable system, requiring visitors without free movement rights to pay a small fee and complete the ETIAS online form.
The new online ETA will initially be introduced for visitors from Qatar this autumn, followed by Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in February. By the end of 2024, the online security vetting form will be mandatory for all visitors not currently requiring a visa for short stays, including those from Europe, Australia, and the US.
British and Irish nationals, as well as those with a UK visa or permission to live, work, or study in the UK, will not need an ETA. The ETA will grant people a two-year window to visit the UK multiple times for up to six months or up to three months under the Creative Worker visa concession.
Start-up visa removed
The government has revealed plans to modify the Innovator visa category, rendering the Start-up visa obsolete. Consequently, the Start-up visa will no longer accept new applicants once the new Innovator Founder route launches on April 13, 2023. These changes will make it easier for founders to qualify for the Innovator visa and establish businesses in the UK while simultaneously allowing them to work elsewhere for financial support until their ventures generate revenue. This development is expected to benefit the UK’s innovation and tech hubs.
Although entrepreneurs will still need their business plans endorsed by a registered endorsing body under the new route, there will no longer be a requirement to demonstrate initial capital for investment, and they will be permitted to work for other employers. As a result, recruitment teams might encounter Innovator Founder visa applicants seeking stable income while building their businesses. Another advantage of the Innovator Founder route, in contrast to the Start-up visa, is that time spent in the UK under this new route contributes to pathways for settlement.
Other miscellaneous changes
Other changes include adjustments to international agreements, such as the Youth Mobility Scheme, and the addition of being called to court as a witness or jury member to permitted absences for continuity of employment assessments. Lastly, the start date for Poultry Workers on the Seasonal Worker scheme will be moved forward to October 2 starting in autumn 2023.
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Written by Hannah Mminele, Senior Immigration Consultant
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