Employment and pensions

UK Immigration Update | February 2024

Published on 21st Feb 2024

Immigration fees, sponsorship policies and the crackdown on illegal working in the UK, and more

The last few months have brought dramatic changes for UK immigration with more developments on the horizon. These include changes to arrangements for short-term visitors to the EU, increased flexibility for those visiting the UK, new requirements for anyone wishing to return to or join their family member in the UK, a large increase in penalties for employing an illegal worker and further changes to e-visas.

In this issue, we address one of the biggest questions that UK businesses face at the moment: can a business implement a policy as to who it will or will not sponsor for a work visa? We explore the issues many employers are facing and also share the thoughts of a specialist King's Counsel on this complex and topical issue.

Please do reach out to your usual Osborne Clarke contact if you would like to discuss any of the issues raised.

Useful dates for the diary

11 March 2024. Removal of the right for care workers and senior care workers to bring their dependants

4 April 2024. Minimum income for skilled workers increases to £38,700

11 April 2024. Minimum income for partners of British nationals increases to £29,000 per annum

April 2024. Specific date to be confirmed, but the removal of the 20% "going rate" discount for shortage occupations on the skilled worker route

How immigration fees have become an employer dilemma in the UK

What issues are UK employers facing given the increasing fees associated with sponsoring overseas workers?

In December, James Cleverly, the UK home secretary, announced future changes to visa rules in what he described as a “five-point plan" to reduce the net-migration figure by 300,000. 

Read more >

Counsel's opinion: can employers have fixed sponsorship policies?

As the cost of sponsoring migrant workers rises, a top employment barrister gives her opinion on what employers can do

Faced with a dramatic increase in costs associated with sponsoring overseas workers, many businesses are asking if they can implement a policy to determine who they would sponsor and who they would not. However, this approach raises issues around potential discrimination claims. With no clear guidance on this area, a specialist Kings Counsel has shared her opinion on this issue.

Read more >

Home Office to crackdown on illegal working in the UK with significant increases in penalties

Businesses need to be compliant with all policies around the right to work and the prevention of illegal employment

In 2023, the Home Office announced its intention of increasing fines for employers from the current level of £15,000 up to the value of £45,000, with fines for repeat breaches increased from £20,000 to £60,000. These fines were enacted on the 13 February 2024. 

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European Union's delayed 'entry and exit' system set to launch later in 2024

The scheme aims to improve external borders' management, reduce irregular migration and help fight terrorism and crime

The European Union's entry and exit system (EES) is now due to start on 6 October 2024, having been delayed since 2022. The rescheduled launch facilitates France's request that implementation of the EES begins after the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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UKVI makes further changes to the family route

The government has announced further clarification and information on the salary threshold for partner visas

A significant number of changes were announced on 4 December 2023 that will affect immigration categories and are expected to come into effect this spring. One of the changes announced was the intention to increase the minimum salary requirement for partner (spouse) visas under appendix FM from £18,600 per annum to £38,700 per annum.

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Business visits to the UK now offer more flexibility

Increased flexibility around what business visitors can do while in the UK could avoid the need for expensive work visas

The UK government announced changes on 7 December 2023 that are now in force and expand the activities that certain types of business visitors to the UK can undertake without requiring a specific work visa. This is a positive step and could be the first of several move that offer businesses more flexibility. What are the changes so far?

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UK government updates its Youth Mobility Scheme and e-visa system

Businesses need to keep track of changes to two major initiatives for UK immigration control

At present, the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) only applies to nationals of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Monaco, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong (via ballot and for those that have a Special Administrative Region passport), Republic of Korea (by ballot), India (by ballot and through a separate scheme), Japan (by ballot) and Taiwan (by ballot). British overseas citizens, British overseas territory citizens, and British citizens (overseas) can also apply.

Read more >


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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