Students & lawyers waiting clarity on UK Skilled Worker visa salary threshold

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The PIE is aware that attorneys and students are becoming concerned due to the lack of clarity surrounding the income criteria for UK skilled worker visas.

When the UK Home Secretary stated that the minimum wage criteria for the skilled worker visa will increase from £26,200 to £38,700 for individuals not on the Immigration wage List—a salary that many have regarded as difficult to obtain—there was cause for concern.

“What we’re seeing is people asking a lot more questions,” Maryem Ahmed, an immigration solicitor at OTS Solicitors in London, told The PIE News.

“We’re seeing this from all different angles, because [students] will be asking if they’re affected by this not knowing because they’ve read something or heard something in the news and don’t understand it.”

A discount to the current salary threshold for skilled workers – which was pointed out to students on social media by Farhoon Asim, founder of International Hustlers – is available, which would see international graduates be able to get a job with a minimum salary of £20,960 or 70% of the “going rate” for that occupation for a maximum of four years – called the new entrant threshold.

The conditions are that the graduate needs to be either:

  • Under 26 years of age
  • Be a recent graduate (in the past two years) or about to graduate and is on a student visa
  • Get a job offer in a postdoctoral position in an occupation like chemical science, physical science or HE teaching professionals – eligible occupations are listed on the Home Office website
  • The applicant is working towards chartered status or full registration in a professional body for the job in which they get sponsorship (a lawyer or accountant, for example)
  • Currently be on the Graduate route visa

However, there has been some confusion as to whether this discount will remain in place for international graduates when the salary threshold rises on April 11.

“In December when they clarified these points… they recognised that new entrants to the labour market could not demand a salary of £38,700, and there would be a discount, as there is now,” commented Thal Vashishta, managing director for corporate immigration at Paragon Law.

“What they haven’t done is committed to what that discount might look like [for international students].”

The MAC Rapid Review into the ISL. Photo: MAC
The MAC Rapid Review into the ISL. Photo: MAC

While the MAC rapid review on the Immigration Salary List, released on February 23, details that a threshold of £30,960 will apply to occupations on the 21-strong list, it does not detail this exactly for new entrants coming through from a student visa or a Graduate Route visa.

The ISL also only represents 8% of job roles eligible for the Skilled Worker route by employment.

“The government has announced that, for now, the new entrant discount available for those aged 26 and
under will continue. In its current form, this discount provides a 30% discount on the occupation-specific threshold and a 20% discount on the general salary threshold, the higher of which must be paid,” the MAC review read – without detailing whether students and graduates over this age, usually eligible for the new entrant discount, would be eligible.

“It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ and wait until these things are announced, and then you try to get your head around it to explain how it’s going to impact the student. And in between all of this, the Immigration Health Surcharge was increased,” Ahmed noted.

Another caveat of using the New Entrants visa after using the Graduate Route visa for two years could mean that half of the time that a graduate could be sponsored for could be made null and void.

However, it was stressed by those The PIE spoke to that the Graduate Route is a still a vital cog in the machine of getting international graduates into the workforce.

“My clients, one of them being a very large optometry company, depend on the Graduate Route to be able to employ graduates at the lower salary,” Vashishta said.

The MAC review also said that employers may see an “increased incentive” to use the 26-and-under discount due to higher salary thresholds across the board: “We encourage the government to consider this impact of the rule changes on the use of new entrant discount.”

Vashishta said that if new entrant salary thresholds rise for international graduates – or even if the government were to introduce Graduate Route salary thresholds – in order to avoid discrimination issues, it could create wage inflation, something he “doesn’t believe the government wants”.

“The Home Office needs to decide what should the general salary threshold be for new entrants quite urgently to give students, universities and employers certainty,” he urged, something especially important given an impending review of the Graduate Route expected soon.

Brian Bell, chair of the MAC said in the covering letter regarding the ISL that it was still awaiting commission on the review of the Graduate Route.

One alternative suggested by solicitor from City Legal, Adarsh Girijadevi, was the Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange program.

“[It’s] designed for internships, [and] remains accessible to international graduates worldwide with the salary
requirement pegged at the National Minimum Wages in the UK,” he elaborated.

The Home Office has confirmed that further Immigration Rules will be published on March 14.

Imperial Hospital Sylhet

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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