UK tables tougher visa rules for foreign workers, clampdown on bringing families

Medics on Health and Care visas cannot bring any family members with them


The UK government on Monday tabled a tough new set of measures to bring down the country's immigration numbers, including a much higher salary threshold for foreign workers to access skilled visas and a clampdown on bringing family members as their dependants.

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly delivered a statement in the House of Commons to reveal that under the crackdown, which will also impact Indians, medics on Health and Care visas will no longer be able to bring any family members with them.

For those applying under other skilled worker visa routes, the salary threshold for an application will rise from the current GBP 26,200 to GBP 38,700.

The same salary amount will apply to those applying under the family visa category, which currently stands at GBP 18,600.

"Immigration policy must be fair, consistent, legal, and sustainable," Cleverly told the Parliament.

In total, this package plus our reduction in student dependants will mean around 300,000 fewer people will come in future years than have come to the UK last year, he said.

The five-point plan laid out by the minister, who took over at the Home Office after Suella Braverman was sacked by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month, will come into effect from the first half of 2024.

Certain student visa crackdowns had already been tabled by Braverman in May, which banned international students from bringing dependant family members unless they are on postgraduate courses designated as a research programme.

Going further on student visas, Cleverly said he will ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to also review the Graduate Route visa "to prevent abuse and protect the integrity and quality of UK higher education", indicating that a similar crackdown on dependants on that post-study route may also be in the offing.

Besides, he said the government wants to "scrap cut-price shortage labour from overseas" by reforming the way people working in short-staffed sectors can apply to come to the UK.

This will include axing the 20 per cent discount applied to the minimum salary for people looking for a visa for shortage occupations on MAC's Shortage Occupation List. The types of jobs on the list will also be reviewed and reduced.

The latest visa crackdown comes in the wake of record-high immigration figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month, which revealed that net migration to the UK stood at 672,000.

The official statistics also showed that India dominates the tally of skilled workers, medical professionals and students from overseas. While the Health and Care visa figures registered a 76 per cent rise in Indian applicants, the Skilled Worker route saw a small decline of 11 per cent to drop from 20,360 visas in the year ending September 2022 to 18,107 in the year ending this September.

In the student visa category, Indian nationals continued to represent the largest group of students granted leave to remain on the relatively new post-study Graduate visa route, representing 43 per cent of grants.

And, there were 133,237 sponsored study visa grants to Indian nationals in the year ending September 2023, a small increase of 5,804 (+5 per cent) compared to the year ending September 2022.

On the dependant visa front, Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependants after Nigeria, increasing from 2,127 to 43,445 in the year ending September 2023. 

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