Major Changes in UK Visa Policies for 2024

Major Changes in UK Visa Policies for 2024

Overview of Major Changes in UK Visa Policies for 2024

In 2024, significant changes in UK visa policies will reshape the landscape for individuals looking to work, study, or join family members in the UK. These policy shifts, designed to streamline immigration and address evolving economic needs, will affect various visa categories, including Skilled Worker, Health and Care Worker, Student, and Family visas. Understanding these changes is crucial for anyone planning to apply for a UK visa in 2024.

Skilled Worker Visa Changes

The Skilled Worker Visa, a cornerstone of UK immigration for professionals, is undergoing substantial modifications:

  • Salary Threshold Increase: The salary requirement for Skilled Worker Visa applicants will jump from £26,200 to £38,700, a significant rise that nearly doubles the previous minimum. This change, controversial due to its steep increase, aims to attract highly skilled workers while impacting the number of eligible applicants​.

  • Exemptions and Adjustments: Despite the general salary hike, specific exemptions exist. The increased threshold does not apply to roles on national pay scales, such as teaching, or to those on the Health and Care visa route. Furthermore, reduced thresholds will remain for new entrants to the labor market and individuals transitioning from student visas, though precise levels are still to be confirmed​.

Health and Care Worker Visa Adjustments

This visa category, vital for supporting the UK’s healthcare system, will see two major changes:

  • Sponsorship Restrictions: Care providers can now sponsor visas only if the work is regulated by the Care Quality Commission, tightening the sponsorship criteria​.

  • Dependent Restrictions: A significant policy shift is the inability of individuals under this visa category to bring dependents. This change could impact the attractiveness of this visa for potential applicants​.

Student Visa and Family Reunions

The UK government is revising its approach to student visas and family reunions:

  • Restrictions for Students: The most notable change is the removal of the right for visa holders to bring their children or partners, except for postgraduate research students. This change will come into force for courses starting in January 2024​.

  • Family Visa Income Threshold: The minimum income threshold for UK-based individuals sponsoring family members is set to rise progressively, eventually reaching £38,700, a significant increase from the previous £18,600. This change will apply to first-time applicants and has implications for human rights considerations, as refusals could potentially breach the right to family life​​​.

Economic Implications and Business Responses

These policy changes aim to reduce net migration and reshape the UK’s labor market. However, there are concerns regarding their impact:

  • Labor Market and Economic Impact: The UK’s tight labor market, especially in the post-Brexit era, faces challenges in hiring workers. These visa changes could exacerbate skill shortages in sectors like hospitality and healthcare, affecting businesses’ ability to recruit essential talent​.

  • Healthcare Sector Concerns: Healthcare sector representatives and trade unions have expressed worries that these changes could be detrimental to the NHS and social care systems, potentially driving migrant workers to other countries​.

Fee Increases and Digitalization

  • Fee Hikes: The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase significantly, alongside other visa-related fees, starting 16 January 2024​.

  • Digitalization Efforts: The move towards online immigration statuses will see the abolition of Physical Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) by the end of 2024​.

In 2024, the UK government is introducing significant changes to the UK Visit Visa rules and the Youth Mobility Scheme. These changes, effective from January 31, 2024, are designed to adapt to modern work trends and provide expanded opportunities for certain professionals and young people from various countries.

Changes in UK Visit Visa Rules

The UK Visit Visa rules will undergo several adjustments to accommodate changing professional and business needs:

  • Intra-Corporate Activities and Remote Working: A notable change is allowing foreign employees to engage directly with UK clients for consulting, training, and skill-sharing activities. These activities must be incidental to their employment abroad. Additionally, visitors can now undertake remote work related to their overseas employment during their stay in the UK, as long as it does not constitute the primary purpose of their visit​​​.

  • Expanded Opportunities in Aviation and Legal Fields: Flight crew members can enter the UK under specific approved wet lease arrangements. Legal professionals will also see an expansion in the scope of permitted activities, including advising, arbitration, and litigation services. These changes streamline the process and broaden the range of permissible work activities for professionals visiting the UK​.

  • Enhancements for Scientists, Researchers, and Academics: The new rules allow researchers and academics to participate in research projects beyond their individual purposes. This widens the scope of professional activities they can undertake during their UK stay, fostering greater collaboration and knowledge exchange​​​.

  • Changes for Conference Speakers: A significant policy shift is that conference speakers are now allowed to receive remuneration for their participation. The Permitted Paid Engagement visitor route is merged into the Standard Visitor route, simplifying the visa process for those engaging in paid activities​​.

Expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)

The YMS, which allows young people from certain nationalities to live and work in the UK for up to two or three years without employer sponsorship, is seeing substantial enhancements:

  • Inclusion of New Countries: Uruguay is now included in the YMS, providing opportunities for up to 500 citizens annually. This expansion promotes cultural and professional exchange between Uruguay and the UK​​​.

  • Increased Quotas and Age Range: The scheme is also broadening the eligible age range for applicants from Australia, Canada, and South Korea from 18–30 to 18–35 years. Additionally, Australian and Canadian nationals can extend their visa by up to one year, allowing a total stay of up to three years in the UK.

  • Removal of Invitation Requirement: The requirement to obtain an invitation to apply for Japanese and South Korean citizens is being removed, along with an increase in the number of available visas for these nationalities.

The UK has Allowed Residents of Certain Arabian Countries to Get On Arrival Visas in the UK in January 2024


In January 2024, the UK implemented a significant policy change allowing residents of certain Arabian countries to obtain visas on arrival. This move, part of the UK’s broader strategy to streamline its immigration processes and strengthen ties with key regions, represents a major shift in its approach to managing international arrivals.

The Context of the Change

  • Implementation Date: The new policy came into effect in February 2024, allowing nationals of several Arabian countries to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) from February 1, 2024, and enter the UK without a traditional visa from February 22, 2024​​​​​.

Countries Affected

  • Eligible Countries: Nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were the first to benefit from this new policy. Qatar nationals were already eligible to apply for an ETA​​​​​​​.
  • Global Expansion Plan: This initiative is part of a worldwide expansion of the UK’s ETA scheme, set to be fully implemented by the end of 2024​​​.

Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)

  • Application Process: Applicants from these countries must apply for an ETA before traveling to the UK. The application process includes paying a fee of £10 and submitting biometric information​​​​​.
  • ETA Validity and Conditions: An ETA is valid for two years, allowing multiple entries into the UK. However, it doesn’t guarantee entry, as travelers still need to meet all standard entry requirements at the UK border​.
  • Application Platform: The UK government recommends using the UK ETA app for the fastest application process​.

Policy Implications

  • Tourism and Business Travel: This policy is expected to facilitate tourism and business travel, making it easier and more appealing for nationals of these countries to visit the UK.
  • Cultural and Economic Ties: By simplifying the entry process for nationals from key Arabian countries, the UK aims to strengthen cultural and economic ties with these regions.
  • Global Mobility Trends: This change reflects a broader trend in global mobility and visa policies, where countries seek to balance security with the benefits of increased international travel and cooperation.

The UK’s decision to allow residents of certain Arabian countries to obtain visas on arrival is a strategic move that aligns with its objectives to enhance global relations and streamline immigration processes. By extending this facility, the UK not only simplifies the travel experience for visitors from these countries but also positions itself as a more accessible destination for tourism, business, and cultural exchange. As the UK continues to adapt its immigration policies in response to global trends, such initiatives are likely to play a key role in shaping its international engagement and economic strategies.

UK Family Visa Changes in 2024

The UK’s family visa policies have been significantly updated in 2024, reflecting the government’s evolving stance on immigration. These changes impact various family visa categories, including partner, child, parent, and adult dependent relative visas, and introduce new financial requirements for sponsors and applicants.

Overview of UK Family Visas

Family visas in the UK are categorized as follows:

  1. Partner Visas: For spouses, fiancés, and unmarried partners.
  2. Child Visas: For children joining parents in the UK.
  3. Parent Visas: For parents coming to live with their children in the UK.
  4. Adult Dependent Relative Visas: For those needing long-term care from a family member in the UK​.

Key Changes in Family Visa Requirements

  • Minimum Income Threshold: The sponsor in the UK must meet a revised minimum income requirement, which has been increased to £29,000 per annum for those wishing to bring family members​​​.

  • Proof of Relationship: Sponsors must provide evidence of their relationship to the family member, such as marriage certificates or birth certificates.

  • English Language Proficiency: Non-EEA applicants may need to demonstrate their knowledge of English.

  • Financial Requirements for Applicants: Applicants must prove they can be financially supported without accessing public funds.

Application Process and Considerations

  • Documentation: Applicants need to gather proof of relationship, financial stability, accommodation arrangements, and English language proficiency.

  • Online Application: The primary mode of application submission is online through the UK government’s official visa website.

  • Biometric Information: Biometric data, including fingerprints and a photograph, is required at a visa application center​.

  • Healthcare Surcharge: Applicants must pay the healthcare surcharge as part of their application.

Impact on Existing Visa Holders and Permanent Residence Applicants

  • Existing Family Visa Holders: For those extending their spouse/partner visa after spring 2024, the new £29,000 threshold will only apply to first-time applicants. Individuals who already have a family visa or apply before the threshold increase will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement.

  • Permanent Residence Applicants: People applying for permanent residence after being on a spouse/partner visa are also required to meet the minimum income rule. However, full details of transitional provisions will be outlined in the future​.

Income Calculation and Alternative Qualifications

  • Income Calculation: When applying for the initial visa from outside the UK, only the sponsor’s income is considered for the minimum income threshold. For extensions and permanent residence, both the applicant’s and the sponsor’s incomes are counted​​.

  • Alternative Qualifications: For those who do not meet the minimum income requirement, there are options to qualify for the visa by other means, such as using savings above £16,000 or in exceptional circumstances. These options will remain viable even after the threshold increase​.


The 2024 changes to the UK family visa policies mark a significant shift in the government’s approach to family reunification, emphasizing financial stability and tightening eligibility criteria. These changes reflect a broader strategy to manage immigration more effectively while balancing the rights and needs of families. Applicants and sponsors must carefully consider these new requirements and prepare accordingly to ensure compliance with the updated regulations.

These policy changes represent a substantial shift in the UK’s approach to immigration, reflecting the government’s objectives to manage migration more effectively and prioritize local talent. However, the implications of these changes are far-reaching, affecting not only potential migrants but also businesses, sectors like healthcare, and the overall economic landscape. As the UK navigates these changes, it is imperative for both employers and individuals to stay informed and adapt to the evolving immigration environment.

These updates reflect the UK’s efforts to adapt to global work trends and to facilitate the mobility of professionals and young people. The changes in the Visit Visa rules will enable professionals to conduct more diverse activities during their stay, supporting business and research collaborations. Meanwhile, the expansion of the YMS underscores the UK’s commitment to fostering cultural exchanges and providing opportunities for young individuals to gain international work experience. As such, these reforms are expected to significantly impact the landscape of professional and youth mobility to the UK in 2024.

UK Student Visa Changes in 2024

In 2024, the UK has introduced significant changes to its student visa policies, focusing on reducing overall migration levels. These changes specifically impact international students and their families in the following ways:

Restriction on Bringing Dependants

From January 2024, international students are no longer allowed to bring dependants on their Student visas, unless they are enrolled in a postgraduate research program. This is a major shift from previous policies that were more accommodating in allowing dependants for students at various levels of study.

Limitations on Switching to Work Route Visas

International students are now restricted from switching to work route visas unless they have completed their course. This change affects the ability of students to remain in the UK post-graduation for employment purposes.

Applying for New Student Visas

The application process for UK Student Visas in 2024 involves stringent measures to assess the eligibility and intentions of applicants, ensuring they do not intend to settle permanently in the UK.

Transitions from Student Dependant to Work Visa

Individuals on a Student Dependant visa have the option to switch to a work visa, like the Skilled Worker visa. However, parents of children on student visas are not eligible for this switch.

Extending Student Dependant Visas Post-January 2024

Dependant visas can be extended after January 2024, but only if the main student visa holder started their course before this date.

Impact on Graduate Route Applications

For the Graduate route applications, dependants can only be included if they were already in the UK as student dependants before the application for the Graduate route. This change limits options for new students from January 2024.

These changes reflect the UK government’s effort to control migration to sustainable levels and ensure that the immigration system is not exploited, while maintaining the UK’s status as a leader in global education


Illegal Working Civil Penalty Increases

In early 2024, the UK government plans to increase the maximum illegal working civil penalty from £20,000 to £60,000 per illegal worker identified. This significant hike reflects the government’s stringent stance against illegal employment practices. Employers can obtain a statutory excuse against liability for an illegal working civil penalty by conducting compliant right to work checks according to Home Office guidance. However, the complexity of these guidelines often requires expert interpretation to ensure compliance. This change necessitates that employers bolster their right to work checking processes to minimize the risk of penalties and sponsor compliance actions.

Intensified Sponsor Compliance Action

Another key area of focus is the intensified sponsor compliance action. Throughout 2022 and 2023, there was an increase in sponsor licence revocations, particularly in the care sector, and this trend is expected to continue in 2024. This development is in line with the Home Office’s efforts to clamp down on illegal working. All sponsors must be fully aware of their sponsorship duties and ensure their HR systems and practices are robust to avoid non-compliance. The potential for increased non-compliance risk during economic downturns, business restructuring, or changes to sponsored workers’ roles further underscores the need for sponsor licence refresher training or mock audits to limit the risk of licence suspension or revocation.

Reforms to EU Settlement Scheme Processing

The UK government is making notable changes to the processing of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), especially concerning pre-settled status holders. An automatic extension process was implemented in 2023 due to a successful legal challenge, providing extended permission for two years. However, the clarity on the treatment of individuals who break the continuity of their residence is still pending. Additionally, the government plans to implement automated decision-making for those eligible to transition from pre-settled to settled status. This development is significant as it streamlines the process for EU citizens seeking permanent residence in the UK.

Expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme

The Youth Mobility Scheme, a popular initiative allowing young people from participating countries to live and work in the UK for up to two years, is undergoing expansion in 2024. This expansion includes adding new countries to the scheme and potentially increasing the age limit. The scheme, originally restricted to a select group of nations, is an essential pathway for young individuals to experience working and living in the UK, fostering cultural exchange and mutual understanding. The expansion will significantly increase the pool of young talent available to UK employers, diversifying the workforce and enriching the cultural fabric of the UK workplace.

Introduction of Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

A notable development in 2024 is the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system for visa-exempt nationals. This system requires individuals from countries that do not currently need a visa for short stays to obtain an ETA before travelling to the UK. The ETA process is similar to the US ESTA and the EU ETIAS systems, aiming to enhance border security by pre-screening travellers. The implementation of the ETA system signifies a shift in the UK’s approach to border control, moving towards a more digital and data-driven model. It is essential for travellers and businesses to understand the implications of this system, especially for frequent business travellers, tourists, and those with family connections in the UK.

Overview of Visa Grants and Arrivals in 2023

In 2023, the UK witnessed a significant increase in visa grants and arrivals compared to the previous years, reflecting a rebound in global mobility post-COVID-19 and changes in immigration policies. Here’s a comprehensive analysis of the statistics on UK visas issued and the people who went to the UK in 2023.

  • Total Visas Granted: The UK granted a total of 3,383,446 visas in the year ending September 2023, marking a 30% increase from the previous year. This surge was primarily due to more grants of visitor visas (+53%), work visas (+54%), and study visas (+8%)​.

  • Passenger Arrivals: There were an estimated 129 million passenger arrivals from outside the Common Travel Area in the year ending September 2023, a 35% increase from 2022 and 88% of the total number of arrivals in 2019, the pre-pandemic period​.

Work Visas

  • Main Applicants: 335,447 work visas were granted to main applicants, a 35% increase from 2022 and a significant 150% rise from the pre-pandemic levels of 2019​.
  • Skilled Worker Visas: Notably, ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visas more than doubled (+135%) to 143,990, with care workers accounting for over half of these grants​.
  • Dependents: The grants to dependants of work visa holders also increased, totaling 250,297, which constituted 43% of all work-related visas​.

Study Visas

  • Total Grants: Approximately 632,006 study visas were issued, with a noticeable increase compared to 2022​.
  • Sponsored Study Visas: There were 486,107 sponsored study visas granted, with Indian and Chinese nationals being the most common recipients​.
  • Dependents: Notably, nearly a quarter (24%) of all sponsored study-related visas granted were to dependants of students​.

Family Visas

  • Total Family Visas: The UK issued 82,395 family-related visas, more than double the number from 2022. The majority (79%) of these visas were granted to partners​.
  • EU Settlement Scheme: Under this scheme, 22,675 permits were issued to family members of people from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland​.

Humanitarian Routes

  • Total Grants: 112,431 people were offered safe and legal humanitarian routes, including 64,264 Ukraine Visa and Extension Schemes grants and 40,243 BN(O) visa grants.
  • Ukraine Visa Schemes: Since their introduction in March 2022, there have been 315,086 applications, with 242,314 granted and 188,900 arrivals counted by September 2023.
  • BN(O) Route: A total of 154,078 grants of out-of-country BN(O) visas were made, with 135,400 arrivals in the UK.

Asylum Applications and Decisions

  • Asylum Applications: There were 75,340 asylum applications, with a 75% grant rate of refugee status, humanitarian protection, or alternative forms of leave​.

Extensions and Settlement

  • Extensions: 689,844 grants of extension were made in the UK, a 48% increase from the previous year.
  • Settlement: There were 112,444 grants of settlement, a 12% decrease from 2022.

Citizenship and Detentions

  • Citizenship Applications: The UK received 225,458 applications for British citizenship, with 181,879 grants made.
  • Immigration Detention: 16,363 people entered immigration detention, a 31% decrease from 2022.


  • Enforced Returns: There were 5,506 enforced returns, a 54% increase from 2022, with Albanian returns comprising over half of this increase​​.
  • Voluntary Returns: There were 17,301 voluntary returns, a 74% increase from 2022, primarily involving Albanian, Indian, and Chinese nationals​​.

These statistics highlight the UK’s evolving immigration landscape in 2023, marked by increased global mobility and significant changes in visa categories, reflecting shifts in work, study, family reunification, and humanitarian policies.

Commentary on the 2023 Stats As Compared To These Stats In 2022


The statistics for UK visas issued and arrivals in 2023, compared to those in 2022, paint a vivid picture of the dynamic changes in the UK’s immigration landscape. The increase across various visa categories and the surge in arrivals underscore a post-pandemic rebound and an adaptation to evolving global and domestic circumstances. Here’s a commentary on these statistics:

Significant Growth in Visa Grants

  • Overall Increase: The total number of visas granted in 2023 was 3,383,446, a 30% hike compared to 2022. This significant increase reflects the UK’s recovering mobility and its response to changing global and domestic needs​.
  • Work Visas: The number of work visas issued to main applicants rose by 35% from 2022, indicating a robust demand for foreign labor, especially in the health and care sectors. The staggering 150% increase from pre-pandemic levels emphasizes the UK’s growing reliance on foreign workers post-Brexit​.
  • Study Visas: The rise in study visas, particularly for Indian and Chinese nationals, suggests the UK’s continuing appeal as a destination for international students. The almost doubling of these visas from pre-pandemic levels indicates the resilience and growth of the UK’s education sector​.
  • Family Visas: The more than doubling of family-related visas, especially to partners, highlights a growing trend in family reunification. This change could be attributed to eased travel restrictions and a normalization of international movement​.

Humanitarian and Safe Routes

  • Ukraine and BN(O) Visa Schemes: The substantial number of visas granted under these schemes, especially the Ukraine Visa Scheme, is indicative of the UK’s commitment to providing refuge amid global crises. The increase in these visas from 2022 shows a continued response to ongoing geopolitical tensions​.

Asylum Applications and Decisions

  • Stable Asylum Applications with High Grant Rates: The consistency in asylum applications and the high rate of grants in 2023 compared to 2022 reflect the UK’s humanitarian stance. The increased grant rate suggests a more accommodating approach to asylum seekers​.

Extensions, Settlement, and Citizenship

  • Extensions and Settlement: The growth in extensions and a slight decrease in settlement grants indicate that more people are choosing to extend their stay in the UK, possibly due to changes in work or study plans post-pandemic​​​.
  • Citizenship Applications: The increase in citizenship applications, especially among non-EU nationals, could be a response to the post-Brexit environment and the desire for long-term security in the UK​.

Detentions and Returns

  • Reduction in Detentions: The decrease in immigration detentions suggests a possible shift in the UK’s immigration enforcement policies or a decrease in irregular migration​​.
  • Rise in Enforced and Voluntary Returns: The increase in both enforced and voluntary returns, particularly among Albanian nationals, could be indicative of stricter immigration control measures or changes in the patterns of migration​​.

In summary, the 2023 statistics illustrate a UK adapting to a post-pandemic world, with increased global mobility, a growing demand for foreign labor and education, and a continued commitment to humanitarian responsibilities. The comparison with 2022 underscores these shifts, highlighting the dynamic nature of immigration and the UK’s response to global and local challenges.

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