Significant changes to the Immigration Rules announced - key changes from April 2023

6 mins

Posted on 16 Mar 2023

Significant changes to the Immigration Rules announced - key changes from April 2023

Immigration Rule Changes

Changes to the immigration Rules are coming into force on 12 April 2023 and are included in a new Statement of Changes published by the Home Office. Key changes include the introduction of an Electronic Travel Authorisation, the creation of a new Innovator Founder route and increases to the minimum salary thresholds for sponsored workers.

Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme

An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme is being introduced to make sure that everyone wishing to travel to the UK has permission to do so before they travel. The ETA Scheme will eventually apply to all third country nationals (including EU nationals) visiting or transiting the UK (including business visitors) who do not currently need a visa for short stay, as well as those using the Creative Worker route for stays of up to three months. An ETA will not be needed by anyone with a UK visa or permission to live, work or study in the UK. In addition, residents of Ireland that do not need a visa will not need an ETA.

The ETA Scheme will apply to nationals of Qatar from 15 November 2023, who will be able to apply from 25 October 2023. The Scheme will then extend to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia intending to travel on or after 22 February 2024, and they will be able to apply from 1 February 2024. The scheme will then open up to additional countries and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2024.

ETA applications will need to be submitted online or via a new app and decisions should be made within three working days. An ETA will be issued electronically, linked to the individual’s passport and valid for two years (or until their passport expires, if sooner). If an ETA is refused, the individual will need to apply for a formal entry clearance visa from their home country to enter the UK as a visitor or transit visa, or under the Temporary Work – Creative Worker route.

Minimum salary requirements – sponsored workers

Minimum gross annual salary thresholds are increasing on 12 April 2023 to reflect wage inflation. At the same time, the calculation of example salaries will be based on a 37.5-hour week, rather than the current impractical 39-hour week, to reflect a more common work pattern. The new salary requirements will be as follows:

  • Skilled Worker visa - £26,200 (up from £25,600). The minimum equivalent hourly rate will increase from at least £10.10 per hour, to at least £10.75 per hour
  • Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist Worker visa- £45,800 (up from £42,400)
  • Global Business Mobility: Graduate Trainees visa - £24,220 (up from £23,100)
  • Global Business Mobility: UK Expansion Worker visa - £45,800 (up from £42,400)
  • Scale-up Worker visa - £34,600 (up from £33,000).

For applicants working irregular working patterns, the changes set out how salaries will be assessed against the minimum pay requirement.

For skilled workers, the minimum rates to qualify for tradeable points for various discounted salaries will also increase. Where the current tradeable points minimum rate of pay is £20,480 a year, this will increase to £20,960 a year.

New Innovator Founder route

A new Innovator Founder route, for those seeking to establish an innovative business in the UK, is being introduced on 13 April 2023. This will replace the currently unworkable Innovator and Start-up routes which will be closed to new applicants from that date, although new applications under the Start-up route will continue to be considered until 13 July 2023, where supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2013.

The changes aim to make the criteria applicable under the current Innovator route more flexible. Under the new Innovator Founder route, an entrepreneur’s business plans will still need to be endorsed by a registered endorsing body, but the current £50,000 minimum funds requirement under the Innovator route will be removed. Individuals will also be able to engage in employment outside of running their business, provided that this secondary employment is in a skilled role of at least RQF Level 3 (A level or above).

Settlement will also be possible under the new route after spending three years continuously resident in the UK.

Other changes

The Statement of Changes set out other changes including:

  • Continuity of employment assessments – jury service and attending court as a witness are added to the list of reasons where absences from employment are permitted for continuity of employment assessments, for example for settlement applications or curtailment of visas.
  • Global Business Mobility - Expansion Worker route – citizens or permanent residents of Australia will not need to show that they have worked for their overseas employer for the 12 months prior to their application.
  • Youth Mobility Scheme – from 29 June 2023, nationals from New Zealand will be able to apply up to the age of 35, rather than 30, and will be able to stay for three years, rather than two. From 12 April 2023, Australia has been allotted an additional 5,000 places and Canada an additional 2,000 places.
  • Global Talent route – changes are being made to the endorsement criteria and evidential requirements. Rather than using purely objective requirements, such as qualification level, subject-matter expert endorsing bodies will be able to consider subjective elements such as the applicant’s evidence of exceptional talent or promise, together with the applicant’s skills and experience in the round. The settlement requirements are also being updated to allow time spent as a Representative of an Overseas Business to be included as part of the three or five year period of continuous residence.
  • Seasonal Worker route – the annual start date for Poultry Workers is being amended from 18 October to 2 October each year and the minimum guaranteed hours for those working in horticulture has been set at 32 hours per week.
  • Returning Residents – the rules have been updated to allow someone whose indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK has lapsed to make a formal entry clearance application to resume their settlement, even if they have subsequently returned to the UK as a visitor in the interim. Individuals must still apply from outside the UK. This will impact a number of ILR migrants who were stuck outside the UK due to the pandemic for more than two years.

If you have any questions about the changes, please contact Anita de Atouguia (see below) or your usual immigration team contact.

Anita de Atouguia

Anita has specialised in immigration law for over 20 years and is one of the UK's leading immigration experts. She joined Doyle Clayton in 2012 to set up its Immigration service having worked in the immigration practices of some of the UK’s best known full service law firms including CMS and Lewis Silkin.

  • Partner & Head of Immigration
  • T: +44 (0)20 7778 7233
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The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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