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Government Clarifies Migration Dependent Measures

The government has moved to clarify is policy surrounding overseas workers and their dependents following concerns expressed within the health sector.

Overseas workers who apply for their Health and Social Care visa prior to new immigration rules coming into effect will still be able to bring in dependants, the government has announced.

The Home Office said care workers and senior care workers already in the UK will be able to remain with their dependants when extending contracts and changing their care employer and applying for settlement.

On Monday 4 December 2023, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary announced the plan to curb immigration abuse and cut net migration, which, alongside the package to restrict student dependants, is expected to mean around 300,000 people who would have been eligible to come to the UK under last year’s rules, will now not be able to.

The package contained the following measures:

  • Stopping overseas care workers from bringing dependants and requiring social care firms in England who wish to sponsor care worker visas to be providing services regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
  • Increasing the minimum earnings threshold for Skilled Worker visas from £26,200 to £38,700 and raise the individual occupation ‘going rate’ thresholds in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs in 2023.
  • Those coming on the Health and Social Care Visa route will be exempt from the £38,700 salary threshold applied to skilled workers, so that we can continue to bring the healthcare workers that our care sector and NHS need. We are also exempting education workers on national pay-scale occupations.
  • Reform the Shortage Occupation List into an Immigration Salary List (ISL), ending the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations – commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the composition of the list in line with the increased salary thresholds.
  • Raise the minimum income requirement for family visas. Our intention remains to bring this in line with the new minimum general salary threshold for Skilled Workers, £38,700. This will ensure people only bring dependants to the UK they can support financially and will apply to all British and settled sponsors under the five-year partner route.
  • We will raise the minimum income for family visas incrementally, in stages, to give predictability to families.
  • In Spring 2024 we will raise the threshold to £29,000, that is the 25th percentile of earnings for jobs at the skill level of RQF3 [1], moving to the 40th percentile (currently £34,500) and finally the 50th percentile (currently £38,700 and the level at which the General Skilled Worker threshold is set).
  • There will no longer be a separate child element to the minimum income requirement, to ensure that British nationals are not treated less favourably than migrants who are required to meet the General Skilled Worker threshold as a flat rate, regardless of any children being sponsored.
  • The government will also ask the MAC to review the Graduate route.

However, the government has announced that until the Immigration Rules are amended, the current thresholds and policies remain in place. Full details of transitional provisions will be set out next year when further policy details will be announced; however, in order to provide further clarity for those currently in the UK on routes that will be subject to change the government has confirmed the following:

Carers and senior carers – these changes will be introduced as soon as possible in the new year

  • Care workers (SOC code 6145) [2] and senior care workers (SOC code 6146) already in the route will be able to remain with their dependants, including extending, changing employer (within these SOC codes) and settlement.​
  • Where a care worker or senior care worker is in the route before the Immigration Rules change, but has not yet brought dependants, they will be allowed to bring dependants during their sponsorship (on this visa).
  • Individuals who are in the UK on any other route, including where that route permits dependants, who switch into the care visa as a care worker or senior care worker after this date, will not be able to stay with (or bring over) dependants.
  • Care providers who were sponsoring workers in exclusively non-regulated activities (and therefore not required to be registered with the CQC) before the rules change should be able to continue to sponsor these workers, including for extensions to their visa on those terms, but not hire new ones.

UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards said: “This partial climb down on visa rules will bring some relief to migrant care workers already here with families.

“But ministers should have been clear from the start. Overseas care staff could have been spared weeks of worry.

“The muddled and chaotic approach points to panic at the heart of government. It remains the case that ministers’ reckless changes to immigration policy spell disaster for social care.

“Migrant care workers are now more likely to shun the UK in favour of parts of the world where their skills and families will be more welcome.

“That isn’t good for a social care system that’s become reliant upon their support. Ministers should now row back completely and still allow care workers to bring dependants here.

“It’s also high time the government did what it’s long promised. Fix the care sector. That means boosting wages significantly above the minimum wage. Only when care jobs are paid.