UK Visa Rules Changes in 2024 Explained

Christmas 2023 Update: The UK Government has amended this policy so that the minimum income requirement for spouse visas will increase to £29,000, not the £38,700 that was previously announced.

On 4 December 2023, the UK Government announced that it was to make significant changes to the eligibilty criteria for a range of UK work and study visas, including the Health and Care and Skilled Worker visas. If enacted, these changes will begin to come into effect in 2024 and will affect the eligibility of not just lead applicants, but also any family members they may wish to bring with them to the UK.

To give an idea of the sheer scale of the changes, the UK Home Office—which is responsible for migration policy—has estimated that were these changes already in effect, about 300,000 people who were granted visas over the last year would have had their applications rejected.

Depending on the public and political reaction in the UK, it is possible that some of these proposed changes might be scaled back before they come into force next year. But for now, we want to set out which visas could be affected, and what this announcement means for those looking to apply for or renew their UK visa in 2024.

Which UK visas will be affected?

Following the announcement by the Home Office and the subsequent questions raised in Parliament with Home Secretary, James Cleverly, it appears that the following UK work visas will be affected by the tightening of eligibility criteria for applicants and their family members:

In addition to the above work visas, changes are also expected to the rules currently allowing holders of Student Visas to apply for their dependent family members to join them in the UK.

What will the new UK visa rules be for 2024?

The UK Government’s announcement makes clear its intention to drastically reduce the number of successful applicants for UK work visas, and to make it more difficult for visa holders to bring their partners and children to live with them in the UK. The Government is seeking to achieve this primarily through removing the right of some visa applicants to bring dependents to the UK with them at all, and by increasing two key financial eligibility criteria:

  • the minimum salary requirement for skilled workers
  • the minimum income requirement for work visa applicants to sponsor a family member’s application

Under the current rules, in order to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, applicants must demonstrate that they will earn a minimum salary of £26,200 per year. If they intend to work in a job that is on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List, they may be able to earn up to 20% less than this amount and still be successful in their application.

Under the proposed new rules, the minimum salary requirement for a Skilled Worker Visa would almost double to £38,700 per year, and the 20% ‘discount’ for shortage occupations would be removed.

In response to criticism of the plans, the Home Office has sought to offer reassurance that the higher minimum salary requirement will not apply to Health and Care visa applicants, nor to individuals taking up jobs which have nationally-standardised pay scales. However, it is the proposed changes to the eligibility of dependent family members that is likely to be of most concern to health and care workers.

How will the changes affect family members’ visas?

In the Home Office’s press release, it is claimed that in the previous reporting year around 120,000 visas were issued to dependants of recipients of Health and Care Visas, with a further 153,000 granted to dependants of those holding student visas. The UK Government intends to reduce these numbers by making it more difficult for anyone in the UK legally to bring their family members to live with them, even British citizens and foreign nationals with permanent settlement in the UK.

At present, the Government’s proposals appear to suggest that the increased minimum salary requirement for Skilled Worker visas will be mirrored in the requirements for those already legally resident in the UK wishing to sponsor a family member for a visa to join them.

For example, under the current rules, individuals seeking to sponsor a family member for a visa have to prove that they have a minimum income of £18,600 per year or cash savings of at least £62,500. The new minimum income requirement is now set to rise to £29,000 per year. It is not yet clear whether these changes to the requirements for sponsoring a partner will also apply to sponsoring children.

What changes will there be to student visas?

The biggest proposed change for students—at least those on undergraduate or graduate-level courses—is the removal of the right for visa holders to bring their children or partner with them to the UK. On the basis of the information currently available, it appears that only students on postgraduate research courses will retain the ability to bring family members to the UK on the basis of their student visa.

This change to the rules for international students wishing to sponsor family members to come to the UK is expected to come into force for courses starting in January 2024.

Will UK visa fees increase in 2024?

The latest announcement from the UK Government focuses on eligibility criteria for visas and the rights of visa holders, rather than on visa application fees and associated costs.

It is not impossible that the UK could increase fees in 2024; however, there was a increase to both visa fees and the healthcare surcharge as recently as November 2023. However, with immigration policy likely to play a prominent role in the upcoming UK general election it is not possible to completely rule out further rises.

Tailored advice for visas to the UK

With UK visa rules and costs subject to an instability that mirrors the domestic political situation, it is more important than ever that those seeking to apply for a UK visa have a comprehensive understanding of the best visa options for them and their family, and that they submit a robust application that gives them the best possible chance of success.

VisaEnvoy is a truly international migration firm, with a long track record of working with both companies and private individuals to understand their personal circumstances and visa needs, and helping them get the right visa for them as quickly and hassle-free as possible.

We understand that the key to a successful visa application is understanding both our clients and the immigration systems with which we work. A key part of that work is keeping on top of the frequent changes to the immigration systems and visa categories of the countries in which we operate.

Our friendly, professional team of migration agents and immigration solicitors work with trusted partners in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Canada and the United States.

If you would like to know more about VisaEnvoy, our agents or the services we offer, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with a member of our team to discuss the needs of you or your company.

Demetris Demetriou

Demetris is a dual-qualified lawyer in the UK (Solicitor) and Cyprus (Advocate) with 10+ years of experience in UK immigration. He completed his legal studies at University College London and City University London. Over the course of his career, he held key roles as Head of Immigration at Legal 500 firms and within the Big4, overseeing teams of 15+ fee earners handling 2000+ applications annually.

Demetris went on to co-establish his firm in London and continues to offer innovative solutions and strategic immigration planning to multinationals, SMEs, and private clients.

He personally represented 1500+ clients in 30+ visa routes including investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, sole representatives, students, family visas, global talent, UK ancestry, administrative reviews and appeals. Demetris has managed corporate relocations, conducted immigration law training and implemented post-Brexit immigration policies for corporate clients.

Demetris has been featured in various events and publications focusing on UK immigration, notably at the Cambridge Network, the Westminster Policy Forum and most recently at DGEMS, a global mobility summit hosted by Forbes India.

If you would like to discuss your UK immigration matter or have any questions about your options for immigrating to the UK, you can book a consultation here.

Tatiani Preifelt

Tatiani has a wealth of expertise in global mobility and corporate immigration. Her ample skills were acquired within leading immigration practices including three out of the Big4 firms in both the UK and Sweden. Tatiani went on to co-establish her firm in London where she continues to advise clients predominantly in corporate, business and skilled work migration.

Having personally relocated to 10 different countries, Tatiani understands the importance of an expedient and successful immigration process and takes pride in delivering a seamless experience to her clients as well.

Over the course of her career, she has assisted over 500 individuals and businesses to obtain the appropriate visa permits in the UK.

Her awarded academic work at The University of Oxford, The London School of Economics, and at The Geneva University is in the fields of Political Science, International Human Rights Law, and Global Migration Governance.

She regularly provides immigration training and has recently participated as a speaker and panellist at DGEMS 2023, a global mobility summit hosted by Forbes India.

If you would like to discuss your UK immigration matter or have any questions about your options for immigrating to the UK, you can book a consultation here.

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