top of page

UK Election 2024: Impact on Skilled Worker Visas and Immigration Policies for International Job Seekers

As the UK elections take place today, 4 July 2024, international job seekers are keenly observing each party's stance on immigration, particularly regarding Skilled Worker visas. Here, we provide an analysis of the main political parties' business immigration policies based on their manifestos and the potential upsides and downsides of each approach. Labour is currently the front-runner, maintaining a restrictive approach compared to the Liberal Democrats, with the Conservatives also presenting significant policy proposals.

Election 2024: Review of the party policies on immigration


Labour's manifesto focuses on "reducing net migration" without committing to a specific figure. Their proposals include:

Review of Salary Threshold: Tasking the Migration Advisory Committee with reviewing the recent increase in the Skilled Worker salary threshold to £38,700 and the prohibition on care workers bringing dependants.

  • Potential Upside: A review could lead to more balanced and sector-specific adjustments, ensuring that salary thresholds do not negatively impact essential sectors like healthcare.

  • Potential Downside: Uncertainty around potential changes might create confusion and hesitation among employers and skilled workers.

Resident Labour Market Test: Considering the reintroduction of the resident labour market test, requiring employers to attempt to recruit domestically before hiring from overseas.

  • Potential Upside: This could prioritise UK-based workers, potentially reducing unemployment and underemployment among local residents.

  • Potential Downside: The additional bureaucracy and potential delays in hiring could hinder businesses needing to fill positions quickly with the best available talent.

Ban on Dependants: Retaining the ban on care workers and students bringing dependants to the UK.

  • Potential Upside: This policy could reduce the overall number of immigrants, easing the pressure on housing and public services.

  • Potential Downside: Limiting the ability of skilled workers and students to bring their families might make the UK less appealing to these groups, affecting the ability to attract and retain top talent.

Training and Upskilling: Emphasising the training and upskilling of UK-based workers by coordinating the Migration Advisory Committee, the Industrial Strategy Council, and Skills England to address labour shortages effectively.

  • Potential Upside: Investing in local talent could reduce dependence on foreign workers and create a more robust domestic workforce.

  • Potential Downside: Training and upskilling initiatives take time to yield results, and immediate labour shortages might not be addressed promptly.

Employer Enforcement: Strengthening enforcement against employers who abuse the system, banning those who breach employment law from hiring migrant workers. Currently, such breaches result in suspension or revocation of sponsorship licences.

  • Potential Upside: This policy could promote fair employment practices and protect migrant workers from exploitation.

  • Potential Downside: Increased enforcement could add regulatory burdens for businesses, particularly those already compliant, potentially deterring them from hiring migrant workers.


The central theme of the Conservative manifesto is "Immigration is too high." Their proposals include:

Annual Cap on Visas: Introducing a cap on work and family visas, recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee, with Parliament voting on the cap annually. This system might resemble the pre-Brexit monthly cap on Skilled Worker visa applications from overseas migrants.

  • Potential Upside: This could lead to better control over immigration numbers, ensuring that the UK can manage resources and public services more effectively.

  • Potential Downside: An annual cap could limit the number of skilled workers entering the UK, potentially resulting in labour shortages in critical sectors.

Increased Fees: Raising immigration application fees by up to 25% and removing the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) discount for international students to fund public services.

  • Potential Upside: Increased fees could generate additional revenue for public services, easing the financial burden on the NHS and other public sectors.

  • Potential Downside: Higher fees might deter skilled workers and international students from coming to the UK, impacting the diversity and talent pool available to UK businesses and universities.

Health Checks: Requiring migrants to undergo health checks before receiving an entry visa. Those more likely to use the NHS would pay a higher IHS rate or purchase private health insurance.

  • Potential Upside: This policy could reduce the strain on the NHS by ensuring that new immigrants are less likely to need extensive healthcare.

  • Potential Downside: The additional cost and inconvenience of health checks and higher IHS rates might discourage skilled workers from applying for visas, reducing the UK's attractiveness as a destination for top talent.

Tighter Rules on Dependants: Proposing stricter rules on dependants, although details are currently unspecified.

  • Potential Upside: Stricter rules on dependants might reduce the overall number of immigrants, easing the pressure on housing and public services.

  • Potential Downside: Limiting the ability of skilled workers to bring their families might make the UK less appealing to potential immigrants, affecting the ability to attract and retain top talent.

Salary Threshold Adjustments: Automatically increasing the Skilled Worker salary threshold with inflation to prevent undercutting UK workers.

  • Potential Upside: This policy ensures that UK workers are not undercut by migrant labour, promoting fair wages.

  • Potential Downside: Higher salary thresholds could make it more difficult for businesses to hire skilled workers, particularly in sectors where salaries are traditionally lower.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats advocate for a "fairer, effective immigration system," proposing:

Merit-Based System: Overhauling the immigration system by replacing salary thresholds with a flexible merit-based system.

  • Potential Upside: A merit-based system could attract a diverse range of skilled workers, tailoring immigration policies to the specific needs of the economy.

  • Potential Downside: Implementing a new system might require significant administrative changes and initial confusion during the transition period.

EU Youth Mobility Scheme: Introducing a reciprocal EU-wide youth mobility scheme for individuals aged 35 and under, extending visa validity to three years, and abolishing application fees for this route.

  • Potential Upside: This scheme could attract young, skilled workers to the UK, enhancing cultural exchange and filling labour gaps.

  • Potential Downside: The scheme might face political and logistical challenges, particularly post-Brexit.

Reversing Dependant Ban: Reversing the ban on care workers bringing dependent family members to the UK.

  • Potential Upside: Allowing dependants could make the UK more attractive to skilled workers, promoting family unity and stability.

  • Potential Downside: An increase in the number of dependants might put additional pressure on housing and public services.

Exemption for NHS and Care Workers: Exempting NHS and care workers from the Immigration Skills Charge.

  • Potential Upside: This exemption could make it easier and more cost-effective to recruit essential healthcare workers, addressing staffing shortages in the NHS and care sectors.

  • Potential Downside: The policy might be seen as preferential treatment, potentially causing friction with other sectors also experiencing labour shortages.

Regardless of the election outcome, businesses with sponsored workers or those planning to hire overseas workers must stay informed about changes to business immigration laws. The ongoing transition from Biometric Residence Permits to eVisas, along with the expansion of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Scheme by the end of 2024, will pose challenges for any governing party. We will continue to provide updates on these changes as they unfold.


Commenting has been turned off.

Subscribe for job alerts

Join our email list and be the first to get job alerts!

bottom of page