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Reducing Net Migration Factsheet – May 2024

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The UK has experienced high levels of immigration in recent years.

Last year resulted in over 95,000 people immigrating to the UK through our various schemes for those seeking sanctuary. Recent rises are also the result of more students and care workers, including their dependants, coming to the UK.

The government  made a commitment to bring numbers down and, this year,  brought into a force a series of measures which would mean approximately 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would now not be able to - the largest ever reduction in legal migration.

The latest official estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that net migration in the year ending December 2023 stood at 685,000, compared with an updated estimate of 764,000 for the year ending December 2022. This latest estimate does not take into account any of the government’s policy reforms, which have since come into force throughout early 2024.

The latest show:

  • Visa applications across key routes affected by the policy changes (Skilled Worker, Health & Care, and Study visas) fell by 25% in the first four months of 2024, compared with the same period last year.
  • Student dependant visa applications are down 79% in the first four months of 2024, compared with the same period las year, following the restriction on most postgraduate students bringing dependants with them.
  • Health and Care dependant applications are down 58% in the first full month since restrictions were placed on care workers to bring dependants with them, from 15,100 in April 2023 to 6,400 in April 2024.

Reforms to Reduce Legal Migration

Policy reforms that the government has brought into force from the start of this year include:

  • 1 January – Restricted most overseas students from bringing family members to the UK.
  • 11 March – Restricted care workers and senior care workers from bringing dependants with them and require all care providers sponsoring migrants to register with the Care Quality Commission.
  • 4 April – Increased the general salary threshold for those arriving on Skilled Worker visas by 48% from £26,200 to £38,700.
  • 4 April – Replaced the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List and abolished the 20% going rate discount so that employers can no longer pay migrants less than UK workers in shortage occupations.
  • 11 April – Increased the minimum income requirement to sponsor someone for a family visa by 55% from £18,600 to £29,000. By early 2025, this will have increased two more times, rising to £38,700.
  • 23 May – Responded to the MAC’s rapid review of the Graduate route, unveiling action to regulate the recruitment of international students.

Student Visas and Graduate route

From courses starting on the 1 January, international students have been restricted from bringing family members, aside from those taking postgraduate research courses and those with government-funded scholarships.

The UK’s world-leading universities attract some of the best students from around the world to the UK, but we have seen a surge in the number of dependants accompanying students. The government has introduced policy reforms in an attempt to limit the number of student arrivals.. In the first four months of this year, dependant applications have fallen by 79% with more than 30,000 fewer applications compared to the same period last year.

The changes, first announced last May, have also stopped people from using the student visa as a route to work in the UK by removing the right for students to switch into work visa routes before they complete their studies.

In March, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to conduct a rapid review of the Graduate route. The government has accepted the MAC’s recommendations and has announced a series of measures to tackle abuse and crack down on any misuse of student visas. These include:

  • Mandating all higher education institutions who recruit international students to work within a framework for best practice, regularising the work of International Education Agents. The government will stamp out the business model of rogue agents who repeatedly encourage non-genuine students to apply for UK universities.
  • Tougher compliance standards for institutions recruiting students from overseas. Those who accept international students who then fail to pass our visa checks, enrol or complete their courses, could face losing their sponsor licence.
  • Raising financial maintenance requirements in line with domestic maintenance loans, so international students can prove their financial self-sufficiency.
  • Review English language assessments with the objective of standardising independent assessment. Students cannot learn if they do not understand their course materials.
  • Ensuring all overseas students are doing predominantly face-to-face courses with restrictions on remote delivery.

Is the government committed to its International Education Strategy and international students?

  • The government is not stopping international students from studying here but has taken action to address the rise in the number of dependants accompanying international students.
  • These measures are being taken to curb fraudulent activities, ensure only genuine students enter the visa system and hold institutions accountable for their recruitment process.
  • The UK Government’s International Education Strategy commits to hosting at least 600,000 international students in the UK per year by 2030 and the government has already met this ambition.

How is the government supporting universities?

  • The government continues to provide financial support of £6 billion per year to the higher education sector, plus more than £10 billion per year in tuition fee loans.
  • Universities are independent from government, and it is for them to decide on how best to manage their finances. Along with the Office for Students, the government will continue to monitor financial sustainability in the sector closely.

Why haven’t you closed the Graduate route?

  • The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) found no substantive evidence of abuse within the Graduate route. It did warn about the potential for International Education Agents (IEAs) to generate compliance risks in the system. The government will keep the Graduate route in its current form, subject to further review.

When will new measures announced in May take effect?

  •  The government will implement these changes in due course. . The new sponsorship standards will be in place for the start of the new academic year in September, and the new financial requirements for international students will be announced this summer.

 Will these new measures affect universities in the devolved nations?

  • Home office sponsorship and compliance requirements apply to all universities who sponsor international students in the UK.

Care Worker Visas

From 11 March, care workers can no longer bring dependants with them.. In the first full month that this measure had been in force, applications for Health & Care dependant visas fell by 58%, from 15,100 in April 2023 to 6,400 in April 2024.

Care providers sponsoring migrant workers in England are also now required to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the industry regulator for Health and Social Care – in order to address concerns about non-compliance, worker exploitation and abuse within the sector of overseas workers.

Care Worker Dependants

Do these measures limit care workers?

  • The government is not stopping care workers coming here, just restricting their ability to bring dependants.

What is the government doing to recruit more domestic based care workers?

  • In January, the government introduced a series of measures including:
    • The launch of the Care Workforce Pathway: For the first time, there will be a national career structure for the adult social care workforce, covering the breadth and complexity of care.
    • Over £50 million of funding for a new level 2 Care Certificate qualification: This will support up to 37,000 individuals in direct adult social care roles to enrol on the new qualification between June 2024 and March 2025.
    • An investment of over £20 million for apprenticeships: Local authorities and adult social care providers will be able to use the money towards training and supervising hundreds of new social work and nurse apprentices.
    • Subsidised training places: An uplift to the Workforce Development Fund that will expand access to learning and development.
    • A new digital leadership qualification: This will help equip social care leaders and managers with the confidence and capability to lead the implementation and use of technology in the delivery of care.

Care Quality Commission Registration 

Have any care workers already here lost their jobs because their sponsor is not currently CQC registered?

  • Care providers who were sponsoring workers in exclusively non-regulated activities (and therefore not required to be registered with the CQC) before the rules changed will be able to continue to sponsor these workers, including for extensions to their visa on those terms.
  • Care providers will not be able to hire new workers for non-regulated activities.
  • Care workers who wish to work for another provider will therefore need to be offered a job with a provider which is regulated by the CQC.

How will this requirement address concerns of abuse and exploitation?

  • This will end the exploitation and abuse identified by the Migration Advisory Committee and National Care Association and ensure that those who come to the UK on this route genuinely provide care for those who need it.
  • Restricting route access to regulated employers contributes to ensuring non-care entities and agencies will not be able to access the route.
  • The government does not tolerate illegal activity in the labour market and any accusations of illegal employment practices are thoroughly looked into. Those found operating unlawfully may face prosecution and/or removal from the sponsorship register.
  • All sponsors must have an operating or trading presence in the UK and any organisation applying for a licence that has no operating or trading presence will be refused a licence. Similarly, any licence holder which ceases to operate or trade will have their licence revoked.
  • In March, in collaboration with Skills for Care, the government published the international recruitment toolkit for adult social care providers. This toolkit is a best practice guide to support providers to ethically recruit care workers and senior care workers from overseas.

Skilled Worker Visas and Immigration Salary List

From 4 April, the salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa has risen by 48% to £38,700, ensuring businesses pay significantly more if they recruit from overseas.

The Shortage Occupation List has been replaced with a new Immigration Salary List and the 20% going-rate discount has been abolished. These measures will ensure employers can no longer pay migrants less than UK workers in shortage occupations.

Roles on the list are only included where they are skilled and in shortage., and if it is sensible to include them considering the efforts being made by sectors to invest in the resident workforce. Inclusion on the list must not serve to reduce pay and undermine the recruitment of British workers.

This follows the government introducing the £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan with the intention to support a further 1.1 million people who are long-term unemployed, long-term sick or disabled break down barriers to work.

 What specifically is the government doing to support British workers into work?

  • The government has introduced the £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan with the intention to support a further 1.1 million people who are long-term unemployed, long-term sick or disabled break down barriers to work.
  • In May, the government launched a nationwide campaign to increase the British workforce in conjunction with the Jobcentre Plus. The recruitment campaign encourages employers struggling with staffing shortages to use the services and solutions that local Jobcentres offer.
  • Led by the Department for Work and Pensions, a cross-government ministerial taskforce has been launched to develop new recruitment schemes in industries experiencing staffing shortages.

 Why was the salary threshold increased to 48%?

  • The increase is based on median UK salaries across eligible occupations.  Employers who are offering competitive pay will already be meeting the new threshold.
  • The government is not stopping businesses recruiting from overseas which is why salary discounts have been retained for PhD holders and new entrants to the labour market.

How is the new Immigration Salary List different to the Shortage Occupation List?

  • The new Immigration Salary List follows a Migration Advisory Committee recommendation to reform its predecessor which the government has accepted.
  • The 20% going-rate discount has been abolished so that employers can no longer pay migrants less than UK workers in shortage occupations.
  • The Migration Advisory Committee have reviewed which occupations should be included on the new list based on where there are shortages which cannot be filled through British workers in the short term, and which will retain a 20% general salary threshold discount.
  • Roles should only be included on the new list where they are skilled, where there is a shortage of suitable domestic workers available, and where it is sensible for immigration to be a part of the solution, at least in the short term, considering the efforts being made by sectors to invest in the resident workforce.

Family Visas

On 11 April, the minimum income required to sponsor someone coming to the UK on a family visa increased from £18,600 to £29,000 – an increase of more than 55%. By early 2025, this will have increased 2 more times, rising to £38,700 – to meet the new salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa.

The government’s longstanding principle is that anyone bringing dependants to live in the UK must be able to financially support them. The minimum income requirement ensures that families are self-sufficient instead of relying on public funds, with the ability to integrate if they are to play a full part in British life.

How will it apply to those already here?

  • Those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who applied before the minimum income requirement was raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the income requirement in place at the time of their initial application and will not be required to meet the increased threshold. This will also be the case for children seeking to join or accompany parents.
  • Anyone granted a fiancé visa before the minimum income threshold was raised will also be assessed against the income requirement in place at the time of their initial  application for a family visa within the five-year partner route.
  • Anyone applying for the first time after the new rules have taken effect will be required to meet the new requirement (or demonstrate exceptional circumstances).

Why did you pick £38,700?

  • The level is based on the median income for people in high skilled jobs and reflects the current salary threshold on the Skilled Worker visa route.

How can the applicant’s income be taken into account?

  • The sponsoring partner (i.e. the British person or UK settled person) and/or the applicant, only if the applicant is in the UK with permission to work, must have an income of £29,000 earned in the UK.
  • That means if a partner was already in the UK and working – for example because they were renewing their family visa or because they were already on a different kind of working visa – their income would be counted.

Will families be split up?

  • The family Immigration Rules contain a provision for exceptional circumstances where there would be unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner, a relevant child, or another family member if their application were to be refused. This would result in leave being granted on a ten year instead of a five-year route to settlement.
  • Further information can be found here - Family life and exceptional circumstances: caseworker guidance - GOV.UK (

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