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UK Tightens Visa Rules for Families, Workers, and Students

The UK government has made significant alterations to the family and work visa requirements as part of a broader initiative to reduce net migration. These changes, set to take effect in Spring 2024, were outlined by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and include increased minimum income and salary thresholds for various visas. Here’s a breakdown of what these changes entail and how they may affect you.

Understanding the New Visa Requirements

For Families: Starting in Spring 2024, the minimum income requirement for family visas will leap from £18,600 to £38,700. This substantial increase means that British citizens wishing to bring a spouse to the UK will now need to meet this higher income threshold. This policy adjustment is expected to drastically reduce the number of families able to reunite in the UK, with an estimated 300,000 fewer people qualifying for entry compared to previous years.

For Workers: The changes introduce a higher minimum salary requirement for skilled worker visas, which will now be set at £38,700, aligning with the new threshold for family visas. Additionally, the government plans to revise the Shortage Occupation List and remove the 20% salary discount previously available for listed occupations. Moreover, care workers will no longer be permitted to bring dependents to the UK, and care companies must register with the Care Quality Commission to sponsor visas. The annual immigration health surcharge for workers will also increase by 66%, from £624 to £1,035.

For Students: Significant restrictions have been placed on international students. The government has halted the ability for international students to switch from student visas to work visas before completing their studies. Furthermore, only doctoral students will be allowed to bring dependants with them to the UK, excluding those at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

What This Means Going Forward

The new rules are expected to have profound implications across various sectors:

  • Families may face separation as the high financial requirements make it difficult for British citizens to bring spouses or family members to the UK.
  • Workers in sectors like health and care, which are already experiencing strain, may find these changes particularly challenging. The inability to bring dependants could deter skilled workers from entering the UK market.
  • Students will see a decrease in flexibility, potentially affecting the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for international education, given the tighter restrictions on family reunifications and transitions to work post-graduation.

Preparing for the Changes

If you anticipate being affected by the upcoming changes, it’s advisable to seek guidance or start application procedures before the new regulations are implemented. For personalised guidance on navigating the new requirements for spouse visas, corporate immigration, or skilled worker visas, get in touch with us at Optimus Law. Our team of immigration specialists can offer expert assistance and direction.

These radical changes reflect the government’s firm stance on reducing net migration but come with significant implications for individuals and families hoping to build their lives in the UK. As these changes roll out, understanding the new landscape of UK immigration law will be crucial for those planning to navigate its complexities.