What are the new UK visa immigration rules coming into effect in weeks?

Credit: PA

By Elisa Menendez, Westminster Producer

A raft of new, stricter UK immigration rules will come into force within a matter of weeks.

The changes, announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly in December, will be gradually introduced from March, the Home Office has confirmed.

In a bid to cut the number of people legally arriving in Britain, the government is making it more difficult for overseas care workers and those on family and skilled worker visas to move to the UK.

And those who pay to use the NHS - which includes most visa applicants - will soon have to pay more than double per year to do so.

The changes were announced in the wake of revised official estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed net migration - the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country - peaking at a record high of 745,000 in 2022.

Following pressure from Tory MPs, the home secretary said the rule changes will help give the "biggest ever reduction in net migration", and along with earlier proposals to limit relatives of foreign students, would bring down levels by 300,000 a year.

ITV News breaks down everything you need to know about the law changes and when they will come into effect.


  • Immigration health surcharge increase

The immigration health surcharge (IHS) will rise by 66% for those applying to come to or stay in the UK on or after February 6.

The standard rate will rise from £624 to £1,035 per year.

A reduced rate that applies to visas for students, those under 18 and young adults on a youth mobility scheme, is set to rise by 65% from £470 to £776 per year.

The healthcare surcharge has to be paid by most visa or immigration applicants who are staying in the UK for more than six months.

Essentially, it is a payment to use the NHS for the duration of a person's visa entitlement. However, it does not cover all health services, such as dental treatment, eye tests and prescriptions.

Critics of the IHS argue those who are working in the UK are already contributing to the NHS through the taxes they pay every month - with some having contributed for years already.

But legal migration minister Tom Pursglove said people coming to the UK on visas should make a “sufficient financial contribution” towards the cost of services, including the NHS.

From February, the immigration health surcharge will increase. Credit: PA


  • Care workers: Restrictions on bringing dependants

From March 11, changes will come into effect that restrict overseas care workers from bringing dependants to the UK.

Care providers will also have to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if they are sponsoring migrants.

The changes have raised concerns about how key roles, such as care workers, will be filled if overseas workers are either prevented or dissuaded from coming to the UK.

Minister of State for Social Care Helen Whately said: "We're grateful to overseas care workers but I'm clear that immigration is not the long-term answer to our social care needs.

"That's why alongside tightening visa rules we're reforming social care careers to boost our homegrown care workforce."

The Home Office said the measures will "help curb the abuse of the health and care visa route, where we have seen people come to the UK for care worker jobs that do not exist or are paid significantly less than the required salary for a migrant worker on this route, and ensure British labour is not undercut by overseas workers".


  • Skilled Worker visas: Minimum salary increase

From April 4, the minimum salary required for people coming to the UK on skilled worker visas will rise - increasing from £26,200 to £38,700.

Currently, visa applicants whose job is listed on the shortage occupation list pay a lower application fee.

The move will also see changes to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which is used to identify jobs where overseas workers need to be hired to fill vacancies.

If an applicant's job is on the list, they can qualify for a skilled worker visa. Such jobs have a lower salary threshold and applicants can be paid 80% of the usual going rate for that job.

However, from March 14, the government will remove the 20% going rate discount for occupations on the shortage occupation list. From early April, this list will be abolished in favour of a new "immigration salary list", which will act on recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

The body will initially advise government on which occupations should be temporarily added to the immigration salary list in time for March.

  • Family visas: Minimum income requirement threshold increase

The rule change that drew the most criticism was the hike in the minimum income requirement for family visas.

In order to be approved for a family visa, applicants must prove they and their partner have a combined income above a certain threshold. However, the minimum requirement increases if they are also applying for children or dependants.

From April 11, the requirement will rise to £29,000 per year and will come into effect on April 11.

By early next year, the minimum requirement will increase to £38,700.

Initially, the home secretary had said the minimum threshold would increase from £18,600 to £38,700 - more than a £20,000 jump.

But following backlash, the government confirmed it will make the increase in stages to give predictability to families - something that has been criticised by right-wing Tory MPs in favour of tighter migration controls.

Chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee Professor Brian Bell previously said raising the income threshold for family visas would not be a “major player in reducing net migration”.

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Following the announcement of the rule change dates, the home secretary said the “robust measures” come as part of a “firm approach, but a fair one”, and give people “time to prepare whilst ensuring that migration comes down”.

Mr Celeverly said migration is “too high”, adding: “We must get back to sustainable levels.”

“The British people want to see action, not words. We are delivering the change we promised and which they expect, lifting pressure on public services and protecting British workers with the utmost urgency.”

Meanwhile, migrant support charity Praxis warned thousands of people could fall “deeper into poverty and insecurity” by hiking the immigration health surcharge "well above inflation", as it accused the government of treating people born outside the UK as "cash cows".

Praxis policy and public affairs manager Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz added: “Every day we see people already struggling to afford bills and food while they try and save the thousands needed for these fees, especially as the cost-of-living crisis drags on."

In a written statement on Tuesday, legal migration minister Mr Pursglove said: “The new rate reflects the increases in healthcare expenditure and better reflects NHS service use by payers, remembering that payment of the charge provides near comprehensive access to our health service.

“The level of IHS will be kept under regular review to ensure it covers the cost of treating IHS payers.”

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