Explained: The 2024 Changes to the Immigration Rules

Explained: The 2024 Changes to the Immigration Rules

Following the news that net migration to UK for the period between June 2022 and June 2023 was 745,000 new arrivals, an all-time record, the UK government announced new changes to the Immigration Rules, primarily aimed at reducing net migration. The most prominent changes were to salary thresholds for work and family visas.

From spring 2024, the UK’s Skilled Worker visa program will see a significant increase in the minimum salary threshold, rising from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum. This excludes health and care workers but impacts most other skilled occupations, making it challenging for businesses, especially in sectors like hospitality, to sponsor skilled workers. This increase could pressure employers to extend working hours to compensate for higher salaries.

Interestingly, about half of the Skilled Worker visas granted in the year ending September 2023 were for care workers, who are exempt from this increase. Another 20% went to individuals in health or teaching, unaffected by the new requirement. Therefore, the impact is predominantly on the remaining 30% of visa grants.

While many of these migrants already have jobs with salaries that meet the new threshold, those who do not will most likely be in skilled non-graduate jobs (such as chefs) or working for small businesses. It is also likely that employers outside London and the South East of England will be hardest hit by the changes, as salaries in those areas tend to be much higher than in the rest of the UK. The change also raises concerns about how existing employees on visas will be affected upon renewal and whether sponsored skilled workers can be paid below the new threshold.

The government also plans to replace the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in spring 2024 with an Immigration Salary List, eliminating the 20% discount for shortage occupation roles. This change may disrupt sectors like technology, engineering, and construction, reducing the number of occupations on the list and affecting recruitment strategies.

For Family and Dependant Visas, the minimum income threshold under Appendix FM will increase in spring 2024 from £18,600 to £38,700, creating a financial barrier for many British citizens or UK residents wishing to sponsor a spouse, partner, or fiancé. This increase disproportionately affects women and part-time employees, with legal challenges anticipated due to potential incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights. While it was initially announced that the new threshold would apply retroactively, meaning that those seeking to renew their existing visas could face refusal even though they still meet the requirements under which they were initially granted their visas, the government has appeared to backpedal on this and suggest that the new threshold will not affect those who applied before the new rules come into force.

The Graduate Visa, introduced in 2021, is under review by the Migration Advisory Committee. This review aims to ensure the program aligns with the UK’s best interests and doesn’t negatively impact the labour market. Businesses relying on international talent should closely monitor these developments.

The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is also set to undergo significant changes. Starting 16 January 2024, the EUSS will introduce measures to combat illegal migration by barring applications from irregular arrivals, including those arriving via small boats. Visitors in the UK must apply to the EUSS as joining family members within three months of their arrival, and the Home Office will have the authority to curtail limited leave under the EUSS for those not meeting the requirements, with an appeal option available.

From 31 January 2024, the Visitor Rules will see several updates. The prohibition on working directly with clients for intra-corporate activities will be lifted, although client-facing activity must be incidental to the visitor’s employment abroad. Visitors will be permitted to work remotely, provided that remote working is not the primary purpose of their visit. Flight crew members will be allowed into the UK under Civil Aviation Authority-approved wet lease arrangements between March and October. Scientists, researchers, and academics will enjoy expanded opportunities to conduct research. The scope of permitted activities for legal professionals will be broadened, and conference speakers will be able to receive remuneration under Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE). The provisions of the PPE Visitor route will be merged into the Standard Visitor route.

Changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme, effective 31 January 2024, include the addition of Uruguay, allowing up to 500 Uruguayans to participate annually. There will also be an increase in the number of places for nationals of Japan and the Republic of Korea, with the age range for South Koreans expanded to 18-35 years. The application process for Japanese and South Korean citizens will be simplified by removing the invitation requirement.

The new Appendix Bereaved Partner, effective from 31 January 2024, will replace existing provisions for bereaved partners and their dependent children. This update will standardise the grounds for refusal and exclude provisions for Bereaved Partners of Gurkhas or Hong Kong Veterans discharged before 1 July 1997.

The Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse, also effective from 31 January 2024, will allow victims abandoned overseas to apply for entry clearance. It introduces a fee waiver for destitute applicants for settlement and expands eligibility. Dependent children of victims will also be covered under this appendix.

Lastly, the Appendix Statelessness, effective from 31 January 2024, will bring changes for partners and children of Stateless Persons. They will no longer be able to apply under Appendix Stateless but will apply under Appendix FM instead. Current partners and children with permission under Part 14: Stateless Persons will retain their options to extend or settle in the UK. Stateless applicants can combine time spent on other routes that qualify for settlement after a 5-year qualifying period.

The overall effect of these changes is to make it harder for people to migrate to the UK and reduce the net migration figures. The salary thresholds are higher than the UK’s median income, which means that the majority of people in the UK are unable to have their spouse live with them in the UK if their spouse does not have permission to be in the UK in their own right. While it is likely that the government will modify the rules so that they only apply to people who make an application after the new threshold is introduced, this is not confirmed, and at the time of writing, it is a very real possibility that families could be torn apart as spouses whose initial applications had met the previous threshold find that they cannot meet the new one.

This is not to say that all the changes are aimed at reducing migration to the UK. The changes to the Visitor Rules are welcome reflections of changes in working methods since the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is logical that more flexibility should be applied to people working remotely on their computers while in the UK. The changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme are also welcome, especially to young people in Uruguay, Japan and South Korea, who will benefit from these new opportunities. Finally, the new rules for victims of domestic abuse should help many very vulnerable people.

Overall, the changes are very restrictive and will make life harder for many people, including some already in the UK, and will be felt by some groups more harshly than others. It remains to be seen how many of the measures will be implemented, if they are implemented at all, but even the prospect of change will cause massive changes in people’s lives. However, while that may be the case with many of the changes, that does not tell the whole story, and the less-publicised changes paint a slightly more nuanced picture. It is hoped that the new rules will be implemented in a way that will not split up families, which would take away some of the nuances.


Should you need guidance pertaining to your Individual, Business or Humanitarian UK immigration matter,


contact us to book a consultation.

To arrange meeting with our lawyers, contact us by telephone at

 +44 2077202156 or by email at office@goodadviceuk.com.

If you have instructed us before, we would be pleased to know your feedback about your experience.