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March’s Employment Law Digest: The Spring Cleaning of Immigration Rules

On 9 March 2023, the Home Office announced a raft of changes across a variety of visa categories.

The key changes are summarised below, however the full government explanatory note can also be accessed here.

Changes to minimum salaries for Skilled Worker Visas

Changes have been made to the salary requirements under the Skilled Worker visa, with the minimum annual salary threshold being increased from:

  1. £25,600 to £26,200 (general salary threshold);
  2. £23,040 to £23,580 (PhD qualified occupations); and
  3. £20,480 to £20,960 (for those under 26, studying or a recent graduate).

The minimum hourly rate is also increasing from £10.10 to £10.75 and the salaries for each role to be sponsored have been altered too. It is therefore crucial to look at these three factors and ensure that the salary meets or exceeds each of them.

The changes are being implemented in line with the latest available UK salary data, including the imminent changes to the National Minimum Wage.

The changes to the salary thresholds for sponsorship will apply to workers assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship on or after 12 April 2023 so please do factor this into your recruitment plans.

Employers with current sponsored workers do not need to increase their salary to meet these new thresholds, save for ensuring National Minimum Wage requirements are being met.

Changes to salary requirement – Global Business Mobility Routes

There have also been changes to the salary requirements in the Global Business Mobility Routes:

  1. £42,400 to £45,800 (Senior or Specialist Worker route);
  2. £23,100 to £24,220 (Graduate Trainee); and
  3. £33,000 to £34,600 (Scale-up Worker route).

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New Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme

The new Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme (“ETA“) is a digital pre-travel authorisation scheme being rolled out worldwide, for non-British or non-Irish nationals visiting or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays.

The intention is for the ETA to provide eligible visitors with smoother and more efficient travel whilst also allowing the for robust security checks to be conducted prior to travelling. Applicants will be required to answer suitability questions and provide biometric data to facilitate the necessary security checks. Decisions are expected to then be made within 3 working days of the application being submitted.

The ETA will be rolled out in stages, initially open only to Qatari nationals from 25 October 2023 (in relation to travel from 15 November 2023), and thereafter to the following countries from 1 February 2024 (in relation to travel from 22 February 2024):

  1. Jordan
  2. Bahrain
  3. Kuwait
  4. Oman
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. United Arab Emirates

Further countries are expected to be added in due course.

Once granted, an ETA authorisation will last for either 2 years from the date of grant, or until expiry of the holder’s passport (whichever is earlier).

This will be a new consideration for business travellers who may not have needed a visitor visa for the UK in the past, but will require an ETA prior to arrival in the UK.

New Innovator Founder route

A new Innovator Founder visa route will be introduced from 13 April 2023, replacing the Innovator route and the Start-Up route.

The Innovator Founder visa will be applicable to those wanting to start a business in the UK based on an innovative idea they have either created, or contributed significantly towards. It reimagines and replaces the Innovator and Start-Up visa routes, with the intention that there will be more flexibility for those who have genuine business plans and sufficient funds to deliver them. The new route will be less restrictive due to the following changes:

  1. There will no requirement to have a minimum of £50,000 funding for the business; and
  2. Visa holders will be permitted to engage in skilled employment outside of running their business (work of at least RQF level 3).

It will be possible to extend the Innovator Founder visa (something that was not possible under the Start-Up visa) and the route leads to settlement within 3 years.

What the new Innovator Founder visa doesn’t do (as was hoped) is allow investors to apply for the visa. It remains available for those only who have the business idea.

In light of the above, the Start-Up visa will no longer be required and consequently will not be available from 13 April 2023, except in relation to applications with endorsements issued prior to that date.

If you have any questions about the topics in this article, please contact one of our specialist Immigration lawyers to discuss.