Explained: our plan to reduce net migration

The Prime Minister and Home Secretary have announced a new plan to cut net migration and stop the abuse of our immigration system. 

The package will end exploitation of the system through certain visas, stop immigration from undercutting British workers, stop employers over-relying on migrant workers, and ensure those who settle in the UK can financially support their families.  

Alongside measures to stop most overseas students bringing dependants to the UK, these plans are expected to deliver the biggest reduction in net migration on record – cutting numbers by around 300,000. 

These steps will make sure that immigration always benefits the UK, while ensuring the NHS and our most innovative businesses always have access to the talent they need to succeed.  

1) End abuse of the system through certain visas 

We will end abuse of the immigration system by stopping migrant health and care workers bringing dependants to the UK, and preventing fraudulent care agencies from exploiting overseas care workers.  

A Health and Care Worker visa lets medical professionals come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job in the NHS or in adult social care.  

And while overseas workers are a vital part of our care sector, it is clear this visa is being exploited – with 120,000 dependants coming to the UK alongside 100,000 care workers and senior care workers last year.  

Most dependants are not in paid work, but are making use of public services such as healthcare. 

To control the volume of dependants entering the UK and stop the exploitation of overseas care workers, we will:  

  • Remove the ability for care workers and senior care workers to bring dependants with them to the UK. 
  • Make sure all employers that approve Health and Care Worker Visas are checked by the independent regulator of health and social care in England. 

2) Stop immigration undercutting British workers 

To stop employers intentionally hiring overseas staff for less than British workers, we will raise the minimum earnings for a skilled migrant worker in the UK to £38,700. 

The minimum salary will be increased 48% from £26,200 in 2024, encouraging employers to look to UK talent first instead of undercutting British workers.  

Those coming to the UK on healthcare visas and on national pay scales, for example teachers, will be exempt. 

We will also raise the ‘going rate’ threshold for each occupation – meaning overseas workers will need to earn more to migrate to the UK. 

3) Stop employers over-relying on migrant workers  

To crackdown on cut-price labour from overseas, the government will end the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations. 

A ‘shortage occupation’ is a skilled job for which there is a shortage of workers in the UK.  

Currently if a job is on the shortage occupation list, employers can pay migrant workers 80% of the job’s usual ‘going rate’ – the estimated full-time annual salary for each occupation. 

But under new plans we will end that discount. That means employers cannot pay below the ‘going rate,’ regardless of whether there is shortage. 

This will help protect British workers from undercutting and reduce the exploitation of migrants. 

4) Make sure those who come to the UK can support their families  

We are ensuring that everyone who arrives and stays in the UK can financially support their families by raising the minimum salary for family visas. 

The level of income an individual or couple must earn to get family visas for their spouse or children to come to the UK has not increased since 2012, when it was set at £18,600. 

Next year, the government will increase this to £37,800 – in line with the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker route – ensuring those who settle in the UK are able to support themselves and their family.  

5) Banning most overseas students from bringing family members to the UK  

We are stopping most overseas students from bringing family members to the UK.  

The measures, announced in May, mean that from January next year – unless you are on a postgraduate research programme – you will no longer have the right to bring dependants to the country on your student visa.