James Cleverly announcing a new plan for the UK Government - five-point plan for UK Immigration

New Home Secretary & Another Knee-Jerk Reaction To Immigration Policy

The new Home Secretary, James Cleverly, is out of the starting blocks with his five-point plan announced in parliament on the 4th of December 2023.

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Having practised immigration law since 1996, I have seen countless Home Secretaries come and go; all wanting to make their mark on being tough on immigration. With the recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures announced showing an increase in net immigration to the UK, the Rwanda Policy receiving a blow by The Supreme Court and with a general election looming, the new Home Secretary, James Cleverly, is out of the starting blocks with his five-point plan announced in parliament Monday 4 December 2023.

What Is The Five Point Plan?

James Cleverly has unveiled a set of initiatives, described as a "five-point plan", aimed at reducing the influx of migrant workers and their dependents into the UK. These measures are intended to create greater challenges for employers seeking to bring in foreign staff, impacting various sectors, including the NHS and social care.

At this stage, we will need to read the details which will be set out in a new set of Immigration Rules which will come into force in Spring 2024 (this could be at any time from March next year). What do we know of the UK Government’s intentions for now:

  • There will be a tightening of the health and care visa by preventing those who have been granted care worker visas from bringing their dependents to the UK

  • Care providers will only be able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission

  • The earning threshold for overseas workers being sponsored under the Skilled Worker visa  will increase from £26,200 to £38,700

  • Increasing the minimum income for citizens and settled people who want family members to join them. This will increase from the current £18,600 to £38,700

  • The Government will end the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the shortage occupation list with a new ‘immigration salary list’ which will retain a general threshold discount

  • The Migration Advisory Committee has been tasked to review and reduce the number of occupations that will appear on the new list

  • Those coming on the Health and Care visa route will be exempted from the increase to the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas as will those on national pay scales, for example: teachers, opticians, pharmacists etc.

  • The Migration Advisory Committee has been tasked to review the Graduate visa to ensure it is working in the UK’s interests


Is There A Prioritised Need?

The next set of Office for National Statistics figures concerning migration are due to be published August 2024, and one could argue that these figures will show that net migration is reducing over time, without the need for the newly announced changes. For example, the new figures will no longer show migration because of the war in Ukraine or the visas issued to Hong Kong nationals. Moreover, the significant increase in the Immigration Health surcharge from January 16 2024 will likely have a significant impact on those wishing to apply to come to the UK on personal visas.

There has been a lack of consultation before these proposed changes, and it is important that if the Migration Advisory Committee open up the work that they have been tasked with, businesses attend a consultation that particular industry sponsors or accredited industry bodies of sponsors respond, by highlighting the potential impact on your business and sector.


To Conclude

It is important that where there is recruitment planned throughout a business which involves overseas workers, that the first step taken is to file their relevant visa applications before the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge, or if time is tight for this, as soon as possible and before Spring 2024. The increase in the salary threshold will not have an impact on those that businesses are sponsoring or for whom the business have a visa application pending before the date of the new changes coming into force. We will however have to wait and see the detail before advising whether those who are here already on a skilled worker visa can continue to be paid on the current going rate salaries (including salary discount for shortage occupations) at the time when visa extension applications need to be made or whether the business will need to account for the increased rates.



How can Paragon Law help?

As always, if you do have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact your Paragon Law relationship lead.

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