Employers call to action as government makes sweeping changes to salary thresholds for sponsorship 

March, 2024 - Shoosmiths LLP

The Government have now published the Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules which confirm the changes being made to the Skilled Worker route as part of the ‘five-point plan’ to reduce net migration. We summarise the main points for employers to take note of ahead of the changes taking effect on 4 April.

The changes are complex and detailed, so we have summarised them below:

  • The minimum salary for sponsorship of those new to the Skilled Worker route from 4 April 2024 will be £38,700 or the going rate for the occupation code, whichever is higher. 
  • The Shortage Occupation List (the List) has been replaced with a shorter Immigration Salary List. To be sponsored for a role on the List, applicants must be paid at least £30,960 per year or the going rate for the occupation code, whichever is higher. 
  • The minimum salary threshold for those who meet the definition of ‘new-entrant’ is now the higher of £30,960 or 70% of the going rate for their occupation code
  • SoC codes (occupation codes) are being changed on 4 April 2024.  Some SoC codes will be removed altogether, and some roles will be changed to new codes. It is vital that sponsors check the SoC code if sponsorship is being offered from this date. 
  • There are transitional measures for those who are already sponsored on Skilled Worker visas and will need be to extend or change employment from 4 April.  Those under the transitional measures will need to meet a minimum salary threshold of £29,000 or the going rate for their occupation code. There are separate going rates for those who fall into this category which are generally higher than the current going rates, but not as high as the going rates for those who are new to the Skilled Worker route.
  • As part of the transitional measures, the minimum salary threshold for those who are already on the Skilled Worker route when the changes take place and still meet the definition of ‘new-entrant’ is the higher of £23,200 per year and 70% of the going rate for their occupation code. 
  • Skilled Workers applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) on or after 4 April must be paid the higher of the going rate or the general salary threshold at the time of their ILR application, regardless of which points option they met at the time of their previous applications. 

Timing is critical – what do sponsors need to do?

The changes take effect on 4 April 2024. This means that any Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned prior to this date will remain subject to the current rules. 

However, the Home Office have announced a further curve ball and confirmed that the Sponsor Management System (SMS) will be unavailable from 7pm on 2 April 2024 until 9am on 4 April 2024 so they can carry out updates to align the SMS with the new rules. This means that in practical terms, employers must assign CoS no later than 6.59pm on 2 April 2024 if they need to ensure that their sponsored workers are covered by existing rules. 

Application times for CoS – how is this impacted?

Defined CoS requests are currently being processed in around a week and the Home Office have committed to processing as many requests as they can prior to 7pm on 2 April 2024. Any Defined CoS requests that have not been decided by 7pm on 2 April will be cancelled. 

There is no priority service for Defined CoS requests so employers are urged to submit any such requests as soon as possible.

Employers who have not had their applications for new Defined CoS requests granted will have to submit requests under the new regime after 9am on 4 April 2024.  Any employer will need to ensure they use the updated SoC codes and meet the new salary thresholds. 

For additional allocations of Undefined CoS, the Home Office are considering these as normal. Any Undefined CoS which are not assigned by 7pm on 2 April 2024 will need to meet the requirements of the new rules when they are assigned. 

Global Mobility Routes – how is this impacted?

Changes have also been made to the minimum salary thresholds for sponsorship on the Global Business Mobility Routes.

Senior or Specialist Worker will be £48,500.

Graduate Trainee will be £25,410. 

These changes also apply to CoS assigned on or after 4 April 2024. 

Further details will be available when the updated guidance is released but this is expected to be on 4 April and we will publish another update at the time. 

What next for employers?

For now, the important thing is that employers urgently look at what their recruitment needs, salary rates for those roles and potentially bringing those plans forward. Employers will also need to review their CoS allocation and urgently apply for CoS as appropriate make the deadline.

Where it is clear that the salary for the roles being recruited for is below the increased salary rates, employers will need to request and assign CoS prior to 7pm on 2 April to remain under the current immigration rules.


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