Press enter to search, esc to close
The most recent SOC landed on 9 March 2023 and primarily focuses on the delivery of the Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme, the introduction of the Innovator Founder route and some changes to the sponsored work routes.
Below is a high-level overview of the core changes and when these will be implemented. The full SOC with all upcoming changes detailed can be found here.
This is arguably the most significant change being implemented in the SOC.
By way of a reminder the ETA is a digital travel authorisation allowing a non-visa national to board a carrier to travel to the UK. For those familiar with the current U.S. ESTA system, it is anticipated that this scheme will operate in a similar fashion.
The SOC confirms that the ETA application process will open on 25 October 2023 only for Qatari nationals who intend to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023.
It will then open on 1 February 2024 for nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirate or Saudi Arabia who intend to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024. Other countries will be added later.
Applications will be submitted online or via an app (fee to be confirmed). If granted, the ETA will be valid for a period of 2 years from the date of grant or until the expiry of the holder’s passport used in the ETA application, whichever is sooner.
It is worth noting that the new rules clarify the grounds for refusal and make clear that an application for an ETA must be refused where the applicant:
(a) has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more; or
(b) has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas unless more than 12 months have passed since the date of conviction.
Applicants who have previously overstayed or breached their UK immigration permission may also be refused.
The Home Office has published additional information regarding this scheme here.
Businesses with a global workforce should be aware of the ETA and monitoring its introduction. Affected travellers should be made aware of the new scheme – they should plan any travel to the UK carefully and ensure they allow ample time to apply for an ETA before visiting or transiting through the United Kingdom. Applications are intended to be processed within 3 working days but that will not be guaranteed.
It will also be worth any affected individual double checking the grounds for refusal of an ETA. If they are concerned they will be caught by any of these they should then consider formally applying for a visitor visa, or at least factoring in time to do so after an ETA refusal.
The introduction of this scheme continues to evidence the governments focus on digitalising the UK immigration system and it will be interesting to see what other initiatives are introduced going forward. A similar EU system remains delayed and is not expected to be operational until 2024.
Salary thresholds and going rates for individual occupations within the Standard Occupation Classification code are being updated, based on the latest available UK salary data.
The SOC also suggests that where the Standard Occupation Classification code salaries were previously based on a 39-hour week these will now be based on a 37.5 hour week.
A summary of the changes to the general salary requirements are below. However, remember a sponsored migrant must always be paid the higher of the minimum salary for the visa or the SoC code going rate. The minimum possible hourly salary is also being increased to £10.75 an hour (currently £10.10).
|Tradeable points option
|Old position (per annum)
|New position (per annum)
|A - salary only
|B - eligible PhD
|C - PhD in a relevant STEM subject
|D - job is in a shortage occupation
|E - new entrant to the labour market
|F - eligible health or education occupation
Global Business Mobility
|Old position (per annum)
|New position (per annum)
|Senior or specialist worker
Clarification is also being added to how salaries are considered where an applicant is working a pattern where the regular hours are not the same each week which should be welcome news. There will be greater flexibility to consider work in excess of 48 hours per week to count towards salary thresholds in certain circumstances where weeks hours fluctuate. There will also be greater scope to take unpaid rest weeks into account.
A minor technical correction is being made to confirm applicants in certain sponsored routes may change occupation code as part of a graduate training programme.
Affected employers will need to ensure any migrants they are looking to sponsor comply with the new salary thresholds for applications submitted on or after April 12, 2023.
If you will be caught be the new rules it will be worth checking the proposed salary meets both the visa salary minimum and the Standard Occupation Classification code amount as well as both could have changed (also taking into account the number of hours the Standard Occupation Classification codes are now based on).
The clarification regarding working hours where the work pattern is not consistently the same will also provide some welcome clarity for those impacted.
The SOC has confirmed that for any New Zealand nationals applying for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa:
the age range is being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35; and
the length of stay is being increased from 2 to 3 years.
The annual allocation of visas for Australian and Canadian nationals are also increasing.
This will mean that from 29 June 2023 a wider pool of New Zealand nationals will now be eligible for this visa, which we are sure will be welcome news to many.
The introduction of this route will replace the Innovator route (which was for overseas nationals seeking entry for the purpose of establishing an innovative business).
The SOC confirms that this new route will:
eliminate the £50,000 minimum funds requirement and will instead have more flexible provisions for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to deliver it.
Relax the existing restrictions on Innovator migrants engaging in employment outside the running of their business, provided such secondary employment is in skilled roles (i.e., at least skilled to RQF Level 3).
This change also closes the Start-up route to new initial applications, unless they are supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2023. With the removal of the £50k minimum funds requirement for Innovator Founders, it is no longer necessary to retain a separate route for start-up entrepreneurs that do not have access to this level of funds.
This change, effective from 13 April 2023, will provide welcomed greater flexibility for innovators looking to come to the UK. This in turn will hopefully encourage innovators to come to the UK which will benefit the economy.
The SOC slightly widens the visitor rules, to allow seafarers working on ships transporting goods and/or passengers between ports in the UK and an overseas destination to perform cabotage operations (collecting and delivering goods and passengers within the UK as part of an international journey). They may also receive payment from a UK source. This means such individuals will not require a work visa to do so.
This change will be effective from 12 April 2023.
15 March 2023