Britain’s exit from the EU will lead to substantial changes for the UK’s immigration system. The FDF is your source for information on the new immigration system and what that means for businesses in the Food and Drink Industry.

The FDF has a variety of toolkits and webinars that will help you navigate these changes and offer support and guidance to any questions.

The FDF has also developed EU Settled Status workshops with Squire Patton Boggs, offering in-house support for members to guide their EU employees through the process.

We remain in active dialogue with the government to ensure that the needs of the Food and Drink Industry are considered in the future Immigration System currently being designed.

Latest updates

MAC Review of the Immigration Salary List (ISL) and Immigration Rules update

Review of the Immigration Salary List (ISL)

  • Following the Home Secretary’s announcements last December regarding increasing the salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Route, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was asked to complete a rapid review of the new Immigration Salary List (ISL) which is replacing the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)
  • The MAC published their recommendations from their review on 23rd February.
    • 21 occupations currently on the SOL recommended to be included on the ISL.
    • The 20% ‘going rate’ discount abolished
    • General threshold will be raised from £26,200 to £38,700
    • ISL occupations will have a lower threshold of £30,960
  • The Home Secretary has responded to the review, accepting the MAC’s recommendations and also adding two fishing occupations (5119 and 9119) to the ISL. 

Update to the Immigration Rules

  • On 14th March, the Home Office laid an update to the Immigration Rules including:
    • Skilled Worker route -  Changes to reduce net migration by raising the general salary threshold from £26,200 to £38,700, while bringing salary requirements for individual occupations in line with median pay for resident workers in those occupations and replacing the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List.
    • Minimum Income Requirement under the partner routes - The minimum income requirement is being amended as it has not been increased for over a decade and no longer reflects the level of income required by a family to ensure they are self-sufficient and do not need to rely on public funds.
    • EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) -  The changes expand the scope of the immediate settlement provisions in Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse to include a spouse, civil partner or durable partner with pre-settled status under the EUSS (meaning that the relationship was formed before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020), and their dependent children.
    • Immigration Salary List and Asylum - Changes are being made relating to the right of asylum seekers to request permission to take up employment in line with the Home Secretary’s announcement on 4 December 2023 to replace the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with the Immigration Salary List (ISL). This will be in line with the Skilled Workers changes being made at the same time.

For more details on any of the above please contact Tanya.

Home Secretary announcement on changes to legal migration routes

Yesterday the Home Secretary, James Cleverly MP announced a plan to reduce legal immigration in the UK by 300,000. Below is a summary of these proposals. We are already being asked by No. 10, the Home Office and the Department for Business and Trade about the impacts these proposals will have on our sector. We would be interested to hear:

  1. Your initial reactions and to understand how these changes may affect your business.
  2. How the higher threshold for the Skilled Worker Route will deter hiring overseas roles (and if there are any areas of shortages that would be most impacted by the higher threshold)?

Please send any comments to Tanya.  We will keep you updated on developments. Below is a summary of the changes and some preliminary timescales.

Summary of the announcement:

 The changes to the immigration plan are intended to cut net migration by 300,000 and to eliminate the abuse and exploitation of the current visa system by both companies and individuals.  On 23rd November, the ONS released the latest migration figures for the year ending June 2023, showing that net migration was 672,000.  This was significantly higher than the pre-pandemic net migration levels, although lower than the 745,000 who came to in the year to December 2022.

The Home Office is currently working to find a date to bring the proposed legislation to Parliament, it is doubtful this will happen before February 2024. The new regulation would go into effect in ‘Spring 2024’.

Skilled Worker Route 

  • Increasing the salary threshold for work-related visas by 48%, from its current position of £26,200 to £38,700, in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs. This is the median earning of UK workers on roles RQF Level 3 and above.
  • Those on the Health and Care visa route will be exempted so we can continue to bring healthcare workers on which our care sector and NHS depends.    
  • The Immigration Health Surcharge will increase from £624 to £1,035.

Shortage Occupations 

  • Replace the shortage occupational list (SOL) with a new Immigration Salary Discount List, ending the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and asking the Migration Advisory Committee to review the composition of the list in line with the increased salary thresholds.  
  • For now, the 20% minimum rate threshold will remain for occupations on the SOL (while it is still in use), but will be significantly higher due to the change in median earning threshold of £38,700.  These levels have not been set, but more detail will be released in due course.
  • To note: In the most recent review of the SOL the Migration Advisory Committee completed a major review of the SOL.  This resulted in all of the occupations our sector had on the list being removed.  We were already discussing the if the SOL was fit for  purpose.

 Health Care Visa 

  • Removing the entitlement for people on care and senior care worker visas to bring dependants. 
  • Care providers can only sponsor migrant workers in England if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission.  The government will engage with the Devolved Administrations to agree whether these measures need to be expanded out with the equivalent regulators.  

    Dependants of British Citizens or settled people 

  • Increasing the Minimum Income Requirement for family members who come to the UK to live with British citizens or settled people sponsoring family members to £38,700 (from £18,600) in line with the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker route.  


  • A review of the Graduate visa route, to be carried out by the Migration Advisory Committee, to ensure it is fit for purpose and to prevent abuse.  

Next Steps

  • The Home Office is speaking with the MAC about the two consultations, the Immigration Salary Discount list and the review of the Graduate Visa Route and expect they will both take place next year, although details are still TBD. 
  • Now the announcement has been made, the Home Office will create a Regulatory Impact Assessment which will outline the analysis underpinning the decision making. They will also be looking for input into the impact of these changes on the labour market as they develop the next level of policy detail.
  • Currently it is only these 5 areas where changes are being made in the immigration system, so other current routes (i.e. the Seasonal Workers Scheme) will remain unaffected.
  • We expect more detail as it is worked out by government and will keep members updated as things progress.

Please send any feedback on the above, or any specific concerns you would like addressed to Tanya.

October Immigration Update

The FDF joins the monthly meeting of the Home Office Future Border and Immigration Service (FBIS) advisory group to keep up to date on the latest policies and legislation that may impact our members. Please find below a read-out from the October meetings. For more details about any of the below, or if you have issues/questions you would like raised at future meetings please contact Tanya.

Right to Work & Civil Penalty Increases:

  • Illegal migration has repercussions on the UK labour market, including affecting breaches of national minimum wage, labour exploitation, concerns around health and safety, and issues surrounding modern slavery.
  • The HO has defined their illegal working strategy as a ‘4E Approach’: Engage, Encourage, Enable and Enforce.
  • According to the HO, Immigration Enforcement (IE) operational activity has increased by over 60% compared to the same period last year, which is resulting in increased sanctions.
  • Proposals for further reform:
    • The civil penalty for employers is to be raised to £45,000 per illegal worker (from £15,000).
    • Repeat breached will be raised to £60,000 (from £20,000).
  • These proposals require secondary legislation and is expected to be laid in Parliament this Autumn. If passed the legislation would take effect in January 2024.

Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT):

  • Since 2022, Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) is allowed to carry out pre-employment right to work checks via Identity Service Providers (IDSPs).
  • The market for IDSPs has grown and offers a more cost-effective right to work check relative to manual checks.
  • The HO is exploring the expansion of the list of documents beyond valid passports.
  • This would include certified IDSPs to reinforce security and integrity of the IDVT scheme.

Digital by Default

  • The HO online checking services will support individuals who have an outstanding, in-time application for permission to stay in the UK (3C leave), to prove their rights online.
  • EU Settled Status (EUSS) Reforms will include removing the requirement for employers to verify a digital Certificate of Application (CoA) with the Home Office Employer Checking Service for EUSS applications made on or after 1 July 2021.
  • The HO aims to make the system digital by default which will speed up the Employer Checking Service process (NOTE  This is part of their long-term plan, but no details on how long this will be.)
  • Guidance on the above will be shared when available.

Visa Fees and Immigration Health Surcharge increase

On 13th July the Government announced plans to increase to visa fees and the immigration health surcharge, in part to help cover the pay rises for public sector workers.  This is disappointing news given the UK is already one of the most expensive countries in terms of visa fees charged which UK-based businesses (particularly SMEs) at a competitive disadvantage. It is expected that the fee levels will be amended in the Autumn when Parliament returns.   Details on the changes are outlined below:

Visa Fees

  • Visa fees will be increased by 15% for most work and visit visas, including the skilled worker route.
  • Additionally, there will be a least a 20% increase in fees for study visas, certificates of sponsorship, settlement, citizenship, wider entry clearance and leave to remain visas and priority visas.
  • Costs will be equalised for students and for those using a priority service so people pay the same whether they apply from within the UK or from outside the UK.

Wider changes to fees

  • The £19.20 fee for biometric enrolment as well as the £161 fee charged for a Transfer of Conditions in-country will be removed.
  • Fees are also being removed for customers amending details on their physical evidence of immigration status, and for a like-for-like replacement of a BRP where the validity of the card has expired.
  • These changes are expected to come into effect in the Autumn.

Immigration Health Surcharge Uplift

  • The Immigration Health Surcharge, pending the necessary legislation, will also be increased to £1,035 for the main rate, and £776 for the discounted rate for students, their dependents, those on Youth Mobility Schemes and under-18. 

FDF will be engaging with Government on these proposed fees increases, and we would welcome your views that we can feed into our discussions.  What effects will these increase fees have on labour shortages and using the skilled worker visa route?  Are there other knock-on effects of these higher fees (i.e. food prices) may have on your business? 

Please share any concerns with Tanya, or let us know if you would like to setup a call to discuss.

Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme

The Home Office recently announced changes to the EU Settlement Scheme that impacts those who have been granted pre-settled status.  Applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) who did not have five years of UK residence were granted pre-settled status. Following a High Court ruling earlier this year, the Home Office has since confirmed that those individuals have the right to reside in the UK (and work) on the basis that pre-settled status should not expire due to a failure to make a second application to the EUSS (for settled status).  Below is a summary of the changes, more details are expected before the changes come into force in Autumn 2023.

Pre-Settled Status:

  • EU Nationals currently on pre-settled status will be automatically extended by two-years.  This is to ensure that no-one with pre-settled status will lose their immigration status because they have not made a second application to the EU Settlement Scheme.  This is currently a one-time extension.
  • These extensions will be applied automatically starting in September 2023, and individuals will be notified directly and should not need to contact the Home Office.  The Home Office intends for the extensions to happen 1-2 months before any current pre-settled status expires.
  • Those who become eligible for settled status are encouraged to apply to switch as soon as possible.
  • The intention is that an automated process will be in place during 2024 to convert as many eligible individuals as possible to settled status without the need for them to make a further application.  This process will include automated checks against government-held information in respect of their ongoing continuous residence.

These changes will not affect anyone who already has settled status.  As of 31 March 2023, nearly 548,000 people have switched from pre-settled status to settled status.

There are clarifications expected in the coming weeks, especially related too shared code checks and how the automated system to function regarding family members.

Other rules changes to the EU Settlement Scheme include:

  1. Late application changes - EUSS applications from 9th August 2023 on, will be under more scrutiny at validity stage, looking at reasons for the delay in late applications at potential spurious applications.
  2. Immigration enforcement changes - Joining family members with EUSS will need to enter the country through legal routes. If a family member enters illegally can no longer join a family member under EUSS.
  3. Zambrano Closure & Family member of a Qualified British Citizen Closure - Carers of British Citizens will be closed through the Zambrano route as of 9th August.   Similarly through the Qualified British Citizen route, as these were always intended to be temporary routes.

We will continue to share updates as we receive them, however if you have specific questions regarding these changes please contact Tanya.


The Food and Drink Federation's response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) review of Shortage Occupation Lists

The FDF is pleased that the MAC have recognised the challenges UK businesses face in recruiting vital skilled roles for the food chain such as food technologists, butchers, and maintenance engineers.

Read more

Food and Drink Federation responds to the publication of the Home Office's plans for immigration

FDF response to to the publication of the Home Office's plans for immigration.

Read more

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