Upcoming changes to the immigration rules this spring and changes to sponsor guidance - the impact on sponsors

Upcoming changes to the immigration rules this spring and changes to sponsor guidance - the impact on sponsors

Post-Brexit immigration rules: navigating the new simplified immigration system

A number of changes to the immigration rules are due to come into effect in April 2023, including various increases to the minimum salary thresholds for sponsored workers. Separately, there has also been an update to the sponsor guidance in relation to permitted absences and when sponsors need to report changes to the salary paid to sponsored workers.

Increases to minimum salary thresholds

As the cost-of-living rises in the UK, the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage is set to increase this April. The Home Office has announced that, from 12 April 2023, sponsored worker salary thresholds will also increase and the going rate for many roles will also increase. This will be particularly important for sponsors who recruit employees for roles that sit close to the current minimum salary thresholds, such as in hospitality.

The new minimum salary thresholds apply in relation to any Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which is assigned on or after 12 April 2023. Any sponsor issuing a CoS on or after 12 April 2023 will need to ensure the new salary thresholds and going rates for the role are met.

Skilled Workers

Skilled Worker applicants will need to be paid the higher of:

  • £26,200 per year (a £600 increase from £25,600)
  • £10.75 per hour (65 pence increase from £10.10), or
  • The new "going rate" for the role which the sponsored worker will be doing. A list of roles and SOC Codes, together with the going rate for each of them, can be found here. Importantly, these new going rate salaries will be based on a 37.5-hour working week, rather than a 39-hour working week. Sponsors will therefore need to ensure they pro-rate and increase the proposed salary for any sponsored worker who will be required to work more than 37.5 hours per week to ensure the minimum salary requirement is met, given they are working more than 37.5 hours each week. For example, if the going rate for the role in question is £50,000 based on a 37.5 hour working week, a sponsor would need to pay the Skilled Worker £52,000 if the person is required to work 39 hours per week. 

Although some occupation codes (such as chief executives and other senior officials (1115) and chefs (5434)) have seen a decrease in the going rate, there has been an overall increase in the occupation code minimum salary thresholds.

The discounted minimum gross annual salary thresholds are also increasing. Skilled Workers sponsored to undertake an eligible PhD-qualified occupation will need to be paid a salary of at least £23,580 per annum, rather than £23,040, and the minimum salary threshold for shortage occupation list roles, certain STEM roles, new entrants, and certain healthcare roles will increase to £20,960 per annum, rather than £20,480 per annum.

Other sponsored routes

The minimum salary thresholds for the following routes are also increasing:

  • Graduate Trainee route (from £23,100 to £24,220 per annum)
  • Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist route/UK Expansion Worker route (from £42,400 to £45,800 per annum)
  • Scale-up route (from £33,000 to £34,000 per annum)

The good news is there is no need for sponsors to take immediate action in relation to any current sponsored workers as a result of these changes. However, when these workers apply to extend their permission to stay, sponsors will need to ensure that their salary aligns with the new mandatory minimum salary thresholds and this means their salary may need to be increased at that point.

Permitted absences from work for sponsored workers

Jury service and attending court as a witness will now be regarded by the Home Office as permitted absences from work for Senior or Specialist Workers, UK Expansion Workers, Service Suppliers and Secondment Workers. Where applicable, such absences will also constitute a permissible break in employment for the 12-month minimum employment requirement.

No need for sponsors to report salary increases

While sponsors must still report a reduction in salary from the level stated on an existing sponsored worker’s CoS, the Home Office has confirmed that any increase to a sponsored worker’s salary no longer need to be reported. 

However, if a salary increase is the result of a promotion or change of duties, role or job title, the sponsor must still inform the Home Office of this change within 10 working days. Importantly, if the sponsored worker’s role has changed significantly so that the new role falls within a new occupational code, the sponsor will need to assign a new CoS and the sponsored worker will need to submit a new immigration application and may only start work in the new role once that application has been approved.

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