Business Standard

UK hikes skilled worker pay bar to Rs 40.8 lakh: Impact on Indians decoded

The revised salary thresholds in UK are poised to significantly impact Indian professionals and other skilled workers globally

Britain, UK, UK flag

Surbhi Gloria Singh New Delhi
The UK government has introduced a substantial increase in salary thresholds for the Skilled Worker visa, effective from today (April 4, 2024). This adjustment sees the minimum salary requirement for individuals aiming to enter Britain on this visa jump by 48%, from £26,200 (approximately Rs 27,65,960) to £38,700 (approximately Rs 40,85,597). Additionally, those applying for family or partner/spouse visas will see the minimum income requirement rise from £18,600 (Rs 19,63,620) to £29,000 (approximately Rs 30,61,559), with these changes set to be implemented on April 11.

A spokesperson from the British High Commission told Business Standard, "The UK government announced its plan to curb immigration abuse and cut net migration at the end of 2023. Part of the package of measures includes an increase in the minimum earnings threshold for Skilled Worker visas while UK employers have been asked to focus on recruiting the brightest and the best."
Breakdown of the new salary thresholds

General salary threshold increase

The primary change is the increase in the general minimum salary requirement for the Skilled Worker visa from £26,200 to £38,700 annually. This hike includes several job categories, potentially affecting sectors dependent on skilled workers from abroad. However, specific exemptions exist, notably for healthcare workers.  

Previously, skilled workers needed to earn a minimum salary to qualify for the visa. Now, that minimum salary has been increased. This means that only those with jobs offering a salary above the new threshold will be eligible to apply for the skilled worker visa. Potentially fewer applicants: With a higher salary requirement, the pool of eligible workers may shrink. This could impact specific industries that rely heavily on skilled foreign workers.

Targeted exemptions and reduced salary thresholds

Healthcare worker threshold increases

The salary threshold for health and care visa roles will see a comparatively modest rise to £29,000 annually, acknowledging the critical role these professionals play in the UK. Additionally, specific roles within this sector may benefit from a lower salary threshold, set at £23,200 or the occupation-specific threshold, whichever is higher.

Rules for new entrants

The policy aims to accommodate new entrants into the UK job market, including recent graduates, by offering eligibility for reduced salary thresholds.

PhD holder benefits

Those holding a relevant PhD may also enjoy lower salary requirements, as part of efforts to attract highly skilled individuals to the UK workforce.

For existing visa holders

Existing visa holders seeking to extend their stay or change employers might be subject to the £29,000 threshold, contingent on their occupation's going rate.

Impact of UK pay hike on skilled workers

The revised salary thresholds are poised to significantly impact Indian professionals and other skilled workers globally. Since the minimum salary requirement has increased, many Indian workers, especially those in entry-level or mid-level positions, might no longer meet the income criteria for the visa. This could limit opportunities for Indian professionals seeking to work in the UK.

Shashank Agarwal, Advocate at the Supreme Court of India, noted, "With the increase in the Skilled Worker visa's minimum salary threshold, Indian applicants seeking employment in the UK might face several challenges. It will be difficult to meet such a higher salary requirement, especially for those in entry-level or junior positions or in fields where salaries are usually lower." Agarwal further elaborated that this could deter UK employers from hiring immigrants, including Indian applicants, due to the higher costs involved, potentially diminishing the job opportunities for Indian professionals in the UK.

UK skilled worker visa: Impact on Indian professionals

Diksha Tyagi, an Associate at TAS LAW (Advocates & Solicitors), highlighted the potential effects of these changes on Indian applicants. Traditionally, many Indian chefs, butchers, waiters, and retail managers have secured work in the UK through the Skilled Worker visa route. Given that salaries in these sectors often fall below the new threshold, such opportunities are expected to diminish significantly. "Now, these Indian applicants will have to seek employment with higher-paying employers, a task that is inherently challenging, thereby shifting their focus to countries with more attainable visa requirements," Tyagi explained.

"Conversely, for individuals targeting IT and engineering positions, the increased threshold may not pose a substantial barrier. Some applicants might need to enhance their qualifications or negotiate better terms with potential employers, a process that could prove advantageous for Indian candidates in these sectors. This strategy is aimed at elevating the status of executive and senior-level Indian immigrants," she said.

Indian workers: A valuable asset to the UK workforce

Shashank Agarwal, advocate at the Supreme Court of India, emphasised the contributions of Indian professionals across various UK industries. Their strong educational foundation, technical skills, adaptability, and multicultural insights are particularly valued in sectors like IT, healthcare, finance, and engineering. Agarwal cautioned, however, that the visa policy revisions could lead to a reduction in the representation of Indian professionals within these fields.

Tyagi also noted the historical importance of skilled workers from Asia, including Indian nurses who have become increasingly sought after in the UK, often outnumbering their counterparts from other countries. This trend underscores the significant role Asian professionals play in addressing sectoral shortages, not only in STEM fields but also in healthcare, finance, and even agriculture.

But is this the end of the road for those seeking jobs in the UK?

Despite these stringent changes, the UK remains open to skilled individuals, especially in sectors that require them. Health and care workers, who represent a significant portion of UK work visa holders, are not affected by the increase in the salary threshold.

Teachers and others on national pay scales also find themselves exempt from these changes. According to the Migration Observatory, an independent advisor to the British government on immigration matters, the primary effect of these modifications will be felt in mid-level skilled roles where salaries are often below £30,000.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission highlighted the ongoing importance of the exchange between the UK and India, emphasising that Indian nationals continue to lead in receiving UK work, study, and visit visas.

"It would not be right to speculate on any potential impact for a particular country of origin or on hiring practices of UK businesses," they noted. The UK Immigration Statistics for the year ending December 2023 show that Indian nationals received over 16,800 Skilled Worker visas, making up more than a quarter of all such visas issued globally. Moreover, Indian citizens claimed 44% of all Graduate Route visas, with over 50,000 issued.

"The Migration and Mobility Partnership, established by the UK and Indian Governments in 2021, seeks to enhance mobility between the two countries. This includes the initiation of the Young Professionals Scheme (YPS) in 2023, allowing nationals from both nations to live, study, travel, and work in the other's country for up to 24 months. Over 2,100 YPS visas were issued in its first year," the British High Commission said.

"Additionally, Indian professionals have access to several other visa routes, such as the Global Talent and Start-Up visas, provided they meet the criteria," they added.

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Apr 04 2024 | 10:19 AM IST

Explore News