Employment law update – Immigration Law Updates in 2024

Immigration law is frequently evolving and 2024 will see a significant number of changes we feel members should be aware of. The UK Government has recently set out its five-point plan for immigration, which, if implemented in full, will see a number of changes to various immigration routes in the coming year that could impact your organisation if hiring foreign workers.

Skilled worker changes – salary increases and more

One of the most notable to potentially impact your business are the changes scheduled to be made to the skilled worker route for spring 2024. The most significant change is the plan to increase the minimum general salary threshold for sponsored employment by nearly 50%, from £26,200 per annum to £38,700. It is important to note that there are some roles which will be exempted from the increase, including those on the health and care visas route, and workers in national pay scale occupations. This planned increase will come into force on 4 April 2024.

Immigration minister, Tom Pursglove, made a statement on Thursday (14th March) which announced the removal of ‘The Shortage Occupation List,’ now being replaced by a new Immigration Salary List (ISL). The contents of the new list have been informed by a review carried out by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The MAC will carry out a full review of the list later in 2024. As with the previous list, included occupations have a 20% discount to the general salary threshold (to £30,960 or £23,200, depending on whether they would otherwise be subject to the £38,700 or £29,000 threshold), but the previous 20% discount to the going rate requirement is being removed.

The planned salary increase will not apply to care worker and senior care worker positions. However, the sector has not escaped its own changes as care workers and senior care workers will no longer be able to sponsor their dependants to join them in the UK. Employers will need to wait and see whether this change will impact on the numbers of migrants willing to relocate to the UK to fill these important and vital roles.

Family migration – minimum income requirement increase

Spring 2024 will see the increase in the minimum income requirement (MIR) for partner visas increase from £18,600 per annum to £29,000 on 11 April 2024. When first announced in early December 2023, the MIR was due to be increased to £38,700, in line with the new proposed salary threshold for skilled workers. The government has however rowed back on their original announcement and have said that the MIR for families will now be increased incrementally, rising to £29,000 on 11 April 2024, then increasing to £34,500, and then £38,700 at a later date (currently expected to be in early 2025).

For those unable to meet the new £29K threshold for a family/partner visa, there could be some relief. Existing exceptional circumstances and the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children will continue to apply. Those unable to meet the minimum income requirement may still be granted leave where:

  • There are insurmountable obstacles to family life with their partner continuing outside the UK
  • It would not be reasonable for their child to leave the UK
  • There are exceptional circumstances which would render refusal of the application a breach of ECHR Article 8 because it would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant or their family


From 1 January 2024, only those studying on a postgraduate course that is a PhD or other doctoral qualification, or a research-based higher degree, will be able to bring their partner and child dependants where their course of study began on or after 1 January 2024.

Civil penalty regime

Another important change this year affecting employers is the change to the illegal working penalty regime. In August 2023, the Government announced plans to increase the civil penalties for illegal working from £15,000 to £20,000, and per illegal worker from £45,000 to £60,000. In preparation of these changes, the Home Office updated its Code of Practice on Preventing Illegal Working.

Expansion of permitted activities for visitors

Employers should also be aware of a widening of the permitted activities which can be undertaken by business visitors. Brexit has caused many businesses difficulties in bringing in individuals for specific purposes, including those from linked overseas entities. The changes, which came into force on 31 January 2024, included:

  • Permitting individuals employed abroad to carry out certain intra-corporate activities in the UK which involve working directly with clients, provided the client-facing activity is incidental to the visitor’s employment abroad and does not amount to the offshoring of a project or service to their overseas employer;
  • Permitting visitors to work remotely in the UK, provided it is not the primary purpose of the visit;
  • Permitting speakers at conferences to be paid for this activity;
  • Expanding the permitted activities for legal professionals and allowing scientists, researchers and academics to conduct research in the UK as part of their visit.

Whilst the changes to the visitor route will not solve all problems, they will go some way to alleviate difficulties faced by some organisations.

Immigration health surcharge

The Increase to immigration health surcharge (IHS) came into effect on 6 February 2024. This has seen a 66% increase in the normal IHS fee, up from £624 per year to £1,035.

Electronic travel authorisation

The electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme was introduced in late 2023 for Qatari nationals. The rollout of this scheme continues with the next cohort of countries (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) added to the scheme earlier this year.


If you would like to learn more about this subject, or have any questions about the details given above, catch the recording of our April Breakfast Briefing which takes another in depth look at the subject.