Immigration Update – What we currently know about January 2024

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Students 

True to their word, the Home Office did introduce new rules in January preventing most students from bringing dependants with them when they come to study in the UK. 

Some students can still bring dependants (more details here) but it is limited to those studying a PhD or doctorate, or research based higher degree. 

This change took effect for courses starting on or after the 1st of January 2024. 

Youth mobility route 

This route allows people aged 18-30 from certain countries to get a 2-year visa to work in the UK in any role, without needing to be sponsored. More detail here. 

Some changes were made to this route in 2023, including extending the age bracket to 18-35 for New Zealand nationals, and also allowing New Zealand nationals to extend their initial 2-year stay by an extra year. 

On 31 January 2024: 

  • Andorra, Japan, South Korea and Uruguay will be added to the scheme. 
  • Australian and Canadian nationals will be able to apply up to age 35, and 
  • Australian and Canadian nationals will be able to extend their initial 2 year visa by a further year. 

Immigration Health Charge 

Most visa holders will have to pay an annual charge to enable them to access the NHS in the UK. Currently this charge is set at £624 per year per person (although there are discounts for certain visa categories). 

Last year the government announced that the annual charge was increasing to £1,035 per year (£776 for students, children and those applying under the Youth Mobility route). 

Originally this increase was set to take effect from 16 January 2024, subject to Parliamentary approval. However, due to delays, it now cannot be implemented any earlier than 31 January 2024.  

Fines under the civil penalty regime 

Most employers will know that carrying out a right to work check in accordance with government guidance, will give them a statutory defence (known as an excuse) against a civil penalty for illegal working, should that person later be found to be an illegal worker.  Currently employers can face fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. However, again in 2023, the government announced that fines were tripling to a maximum of £60,000 per illegal worker in the new year.  

This change was due to take effect from 22 January 2024, but again the timing has slipped due to delayed parliamentary approval.  The increases will come into effect 21 days after they are ‘made’ (i.e. pass the parliamentary approval stage). 

We will cover updates on the other changes that are happening this year, most notably the almost 50% increase in minimum salary levels for skilled workers in April, as soon as the government guidance is issued. In the meantime, if you have any queries, please get in touch with our immigration team.