Government’s Five Point Plan on Immigration – much still unknown

7th December 2023

The government’s announcement earlier this week about upcoming changes to the immigration rules, the so called “Five Point Plan”, certainly sent shockwaves through the immigration community, and rightfully so. While changes were anticipated, and the salary increases had been rumoured for the Skilled Worker category, the extent to the increases was certainly surprising (rising for the Skilled Worker route from £26,200 to £38,700), also including restrictions on health and care workers bringing dependants. In addition, in a particularly impactful move, the government announced a substantial rise in the family visa (appendix FM) financial requirement from £18,600 to £38,700 which must be met to bring a partner to the UK, which is well above the median salary level in the UK. This will have a distressful impact on family life for British citizens and settled individuals looking to bring their partners to the UK who cannot meet the threshold.

It is important to try and take a full look at the potential impact of everything announced and not be too heavily influenced by the rhetoric and media analysis at this stage. More substance will be clearly required to fully understand the ramifications of the government’s shift in policy. I can identify the following areas where we will need to see more substance behind this initial plan to understand exactly what this means for businesses and individuals.

Implementation Date

The implementation date has had a few dates floated already, including a reference to a spring date (mentioned by the Home Secretary), a more specific reference to April, as well as the now former immigration minister Robert Jenrick pushing for implementation as soon as possible (although his resignation seems mostly related to the Rwanda asylum policy, his departure could also indicate the government may not push this through any earlier than the spring). For all parties concerned clarity on the implementation date would be vital to understand what actions are needed, and when. The required rule and policy changes cannot be implemented overnight, that is certain. The announcement that there is now a separate minister for legal migration and delivery also perhaps indicates the extent of work to be done.

Transitional Arrangements

Transitional arrangements provide protection for those who have become familiar and applied under the current rules, and immigration policy is typically not implemented retrospectively. In particular those individuals who have filed recent work visa and family visa applications under the proposed salary thresholds, or have visas expiring shortly, will be anxious about whether the new salary thresholds would apply to them at any point in the future. The government should announce as soon as possible any transitional arrangements to provide certainty.

When the salary threshold will not apply or a discounted rate applies

The current immigration framework offers various ways for applicants to benefit from a reduced salary threshold, in particular new entrants (those switching from student/graduate visas or under 26) as well as the salary discount for shortage occupations, which we know is being removed and re-branded in some form as the Immigration Salary List. The new entrant salary level remaining will of be particular significance, given plenty of individuals who are recent graduates or under the age of 26 would certainly struggle to meet a £38,700 going rate.

Changes to occupational codes and the introduction of the Immigration Salary List

The change of the general salary threshold will also most likely lead to a review of the occupational codes and their respective going rates and businesses will be keen to understand whether this will be updated in line with the same percentile as the salary thresholds. For example, if an occupational code already had a going rate of £39,000, will this also increase? In addition, the Shortage Occupation List being replaced by the Immigration Salary List, which we understand will retain a general salary threshold discount, will be of particular interest to those sectors where pay will often not meet the new general threshold. Questions remain about what roles will be on this Immigration Salary list and how it will operate.

Additional changes 

Whenever there has been a shift in government policy that overall has increased restrictions using the immigration system, or increased costs, often the finer detailed policy guidance brings about clarifications, and unforeseen benefits, implemented into the system. The devil is not necessarily always in the details in these instances so the full and updated guidance will be eagerly anticipated, and thoroughly analysed for such points. Also there has been no mention  of any changes to the Global Mobility (GBM) routes, although the salary threshold for this route was already higher than the proposed increase for the Skilled Worker route. The government has also confirmed it is reviewing the graduate visa route so that is an area of possible change.

Family visa (Appendix FM) threshold and exceptional circumstances

The government will likely need to flesh out what qualifies as exceptional circumstances under Appendix FM to be exempt from meeting the financial threshold, as given this threshold is also rising to £38,700, and the UK median salary is below this, many families will find themselves without many solutions but to rely on exceptional circumstances. The government will not want to involve itself into repeated ECHR Article 8 human rights exceptional circumstances claims that can involve lengthy immigrational tribunal claims so we can likely expect this to be explained in further detail. There has already been considerable backlash and negative publicity to this part of the announcement which I would expect to continue right through to implementation, with the government likely facing legal challenges.


Those of us in the immigration community have understandably reacted with concern to the recent announcements. The government’s announcements are making the immigration system more costly to use, and making the UK a less attractive option for relocation and investment. Businesses will need to receive information on how they will fill labour shortages and gaps previously filled by the immigration system, ideally with genuine solutions such as expanded apprenticeship and work schemes funded by the immigration fee increases.  The family visa threshold increase seems wholly disproportionate and unjust so much clarification will be required as to the policy behind reaching this amount. We will need to see the finer details and implemented immigration rules to really understand the full impact of these announcements beyond the Five Point Plan announcement.