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Apply now for UK work visas before minimum salary jump on 4 April

29 February 2024

From 4 April 2024 many people who would qualify now, will not be able to get a Skilled Worker visa. Hefty increases to the occupation-based ‘going rate’ salary thresholds and the new general salary threshold of £38,700 will impact a vast number of would-be applicants. Employers should urgently review potential applicants to submit applications now and avoid disappointment in the near future.

The full extent of salary changes to work routes and the extent of transitional arrangements will only be confirmed once new Immigration Rules are published on 14 March 2024. However, the clear message from Government is that net migration must be reduced and these salary increases are one heavy hammered approach to doing so.

Employers should urgently review the immigration position of their existing workforce, as well as new hires in the pipeline. Many employees may be intending to apply for extensions within the Skilled Worker category or switches into it from other categories and will no longer be able to do so if they leave it until after 3 April 2024. It is therefore important to assess whether potentially affected individuals could apply before the changes. Employers may also want to consider assisting those currently eligible under the Partner route, where similar salary increases could affect their continuity of employment as well.

Questions to ask include:

  • Will the employee still meet the minimum salary requirement after the changes? Anyone on the following visas should be assessed:
    • Student
    • Graduate
    • Ukraine Scheme
    • Senior or Specialist Worker
    • Graduate Trainee
    • Dependant
    • Youth Mobility
    • Spouse, partner, family route visa holders
  • Should new hires or assignments under the Creative Worker, Senior or Specialist Worker, Graduate Trainee or UK Expansion Worker routes be brought forward?
  • Will a worker who is eligible to apply under the Partner route still be eligible after the minimum income requirement is raised to £29,000 on 11 April 2024, or £34,500 later in 2024?
  • Should a worker who is a carer or senior carer be sponsored before 11 March 2024 if they wish to be accompanied or joined by dependants?
    • Should the business consider becoming a sponsor under the Scale-up route if eligible?

It is important for employers to act as soon as possible, particularly in view of ongoing processing delays that could slow down preliminary steps such as obtaining a certificate of sponsorship.

Substantial rises to going rates for Skilled Worker route occupations

It has been widely publicised that the general salary threshold for new applicants to the Skilled Worker route will rise from £26,200 to £38,700. In addition, sponsors should also note the following changes to the ‘going rate’ thresholds will apply for each eligible occupation (as dictated by its Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code):

  • The going rates will rise from the 25th percentile to the 50th percentile (median) of the salary range for each occupation;
  • The salary ranges will be adjusted for inflation; and
  • The SOC codes for each occupation will be updated to align with SOC 2020 instead of SOC 2010.

It is anticipated that the going rate thresholds for individuals who are already on the Skilled Worker route will remain at the 25th percentile due to transitional arrangements, however the current going rates will be updated to SOC 2020 coding and adjusted for inflation using ASHE 2023 data.

Some examples of the anticipated salary changes for commonly used SOC codes are included below.

SOC code (SOC 2010) SOC code (SOC 2020)  Current going rate per year (GBP)  Estimated going rate per year for new Skilled Workers not covered by transitional arrangements (50th percentile, GBP) Estimated going rate per year for existing Skilled Workers covered by transitional arrangements (25th percentile, GBP)
2135 IT business analysts, architects and system designers 2133 IT business analysts, architects and system designers 30,080  51,698 39,328
2136 Programmers and software development professionals 2134 Programmers and software development professionals 27,200  49,430 36,296
2139 Information technology and telecommunications professionals not elsewhere classified 2139 Information technology professionals not elsewhere classified 25,680  44,244 31,559 
2413 Solicitors 2412 Solicitors and lawyers 33,700 52,296 37,733
2419 Legal professionals not elsewhere classified 2419 Legal professionals not elsewhere classified 52,100 29,571  


2421 Chartered and certified accountants 2421 Chartered and certified accountants 31,300 46,847 33,905
3520 Legal associate professionals 3520 Legal associate professionals 21,500 29,965  


3534 Finance and investment analysts and advisers 2422 Finance and investment analysts and advisers 28,600 40,629 32,141
3538 Financial accounts managers 3534 Financial accounts managers 29,800 41,622 32,549
3545 Sales accounts and business development managers 3556 Sales accounts and business development managers 35,100 52,495 39,093

Groups of worker likely to be most heavily affected by the Skilled Worker route changes

The increases to the salary thresholds will affect all Skilled Worker applicants and are likely to be most challenging for smaller businesses and businesses operating outside of the South East of England. There are also particular issues for certain groups of applicant, some which are outlined below.

New entrants and workers early in their career

The Home Office’s intended policy on this group of workers is still not clear, however the rise in going rates from the 25th percentile to the 50th means that workers who are earlier in their career are less likely to be eligible for sponsorship unless they meet the new entrant criteria.

In their report on the rapid review of the Immigration Salary List (which will replace the current Shortage Occupation List), the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has also encouraged the Home Office to consider the impact of the salary threshold increases on use of the new entrant points option. The MAC’s concern is that the existing 20% general salary threshold and 30% going rate discount may act as an incentive for employers to use this points option to fill vacancies that would otherwise be unaffordable to sponsor.

We have previously highlighted some of the policy issues relating to the new entrant points option. In particular, it may not be viable to increase a relatively junior employee’s salary to meet the full salary thresholds once they are no longer eligible for points under the new entrant criteria.

Sponsors wishing to use the new entrant points option in its current form should do so without delay, for example for sponsoring eligible Student or Graduate route switchers.

Ukraine Scheme participants

The Home Office has recently reconfirmed that the Ukraine Schemes are intended as a temporary protection route. Although a further 18-month extension will be made available from early 2025, these routes are not intended to lead to settlement.

Some scheme participants who wish to settle may currently qualify under the existing Skilled Worker salary thresholds but may not continue to qualify once the thresholds are raised.

For further information on recent changes and updates to the Ukraine Schemes, see our earlier article here.

Care workers

Health and care workers will not be subject to the full £38,700 general threshold due to exemptions for workers eligible under the Health and Care visa and/or occupations anticipated to be included on the new Immigration Salary List.

However, where a carer or senior carer’s first sponsored work application is submitted on or after 11 March 2024, they will not be eligible to be accompanied by dependants. Workers with families may therefore wish to apply before this takes effect. For further information on this change, see our earlier article here.

Individuals eligible for the Partner route

Some workers with limited immigration permission who are currently eligible for the Partner route may cease to be once the minimum income requirement is increased from £18,600 to £29,000 from 11 April 2024. A further increase to £34,000 is scheduled for later in 2024 and another increase to £38,700 in early 2025.

These employees will likely be equally ineligible for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker accordingly.

Potential knock-on adjustments to other work routes

Although no specific announcements have been made by the Government regarding the salary thresholds for other work routes, these are likely to be adjusted to avoid displacement of applications from the Skilled Worker route into other routes and to reflect recent inflation.

Creative Worker route

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has flagged that currently the Creative Worker route does not operate a minimum salary threshold. The MAC has recommended that a minimum salary threshold is applied to this route so that it cannot be used to pay lower salaries than under the Skilled Worker route.

Senior and Specialist Worker, UK Expansion Worker and Graduate Trainee routes

These routes are underpinned by the UK’s commitments to facilitate temporary intra-corporate mobility under the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATS). It is not yet clear whether the Home Office will continue to use the 25th percentile going rates for these routes, or if it will be considered appropriate to lift these to the 50th percentile.

There is also the possibility that the following thresholds may be lifted:

  • General salary threshold for Senior or Specialist Workers and UK Expansion Workers (currently £45,800);
  • General salary threshold for Graduate Trainees (currently £24,200); and/or
  • The High Earner threshold for Senior or Specialist Workers and UK Expansion Workers (currently £73,900).

Scale-up route

This route was introduced in on 22 August 2022 and the general salary threshold for it was increased from £33,000 to £34,600 on 11 April 2023. The general salary threshold for this route was originally designed to be higher than the Skilled Worker general thresholds, so it is possible it may be further revised along with other April 2024 Immigration Rule changes.

No specific review of the Scale-up route has been announced. However, the Home Office previously confirmed when it was launched that it would be monitored for general trends in usage and effectiveness. It is therefore possible that a review could be carried out in the short to medium-term, depending on observed trends and Home Office priorities.

We will continue to monitor developments and provide updates in this area. If you have any queries about this update or need assistance with a work route application, please contact a member of our immigration team.

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