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Spring Budget 2023 – UK Immigration

The 2023 Spring Budget focused on growing and strengthening the UK economy, including measures to help businesses plug the labour shortage gap and expand the list of permitted activities business visitors can undertake without the need to obtain a visa.

We take a closer look at these measures, amongst others, below.

Labour shortage

Finally, there is good news for the construction sector! This is one of several sectors that have suffered from severe labour shortages since Brexit. In response to the repeated request from the construction sector to relax work visa requirements, the government has confirmed that the following five construction occupations will be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL):

  • Bricklayers and masons
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • Carpenters and joiners
  • Plasterers
  • Construction and building trades n.e.c.

As these occupations will be added to the SOL, the roles will benefit from a more ‘favourable’ visa process, such as lower visa fees and salary requirements. However, there will still be a minimum salary in place of £20,960, not to mention the mandatory English language requirements, which may continue to present obstacles for the construction sector.

Expanding permitted activities for business visitors

Again, a welcomed change to a very convoluted aspect of UK immigration – business visitors. So far, the budget announcement has been vague on the exact changes to be implemented later this year. There is confirmation that the range of short-term business activities will be expanded, however, and the government will review the current permitted paid engagements.

Nonetheless, whilst there may be a slight relaxation of the rules, businesses must remain vigilant and carefully consider:

  1. The requirements under Appendix Visitor to protect against what may be perceived as illegal working in the UK
  2. The possible tax consequences of visitors coming to the UK for more than 60 days or doing substantive work for their overseas employers whilst in the UK.

Launch of Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA)

What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away. A redundant idiom perhaps, but very fitting here! The ETA is a new requirement that will be gradually applied for entry into the UK starting 15 November 2023.

The government have announced a three-phase roll out process, as follows:

  • From 15 November 2023 – ETA will apply to nationals of Qatar
  • From 22 February 2024 – ETA will apply to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates
  • By the end of 2024 – ETA will apply to ALL non-visa nationals.

Under the ETA, non-visa national countries currently eligible for an electronic waiver and Jordanian citizens will be required to obtain an ETA for:

  • Visits for up to six months for tourism, visiting friends/family, business or study
  • Visits for up to three months under the Creative Worker visa concession
  • Transitioning through the UK.

The ETA scheme will not apply to British and Irish citizens, those with a right to abode in the UK,  an existing visa or those who legally resident in Ireland and entering the UK from Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

The application process for an ETA will be similar to the USA’s Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). A chipped biometric passport will be required to apply and applicants will need to upload a digital photograph, enrol their biometrics and answer a set of suitability questions. The cost is yet to be confirmed, but it is anticipated to be around £10 – £20, so not particularly costly, but indeed another layer of bureaucracy to contend with as ETA applications may be refused on the grounds of NHS debt, criminality or the purposefully vague “not conducive to public good” ground for refusal (this is not an exhaustive list).

The ETA will be valid for a two-year period or will expire with the applicant’s passport, whichever period is shorter.

Other key updates

Beyond the above, the following updates have been confirmed within the latest Statement of Changes:

  • Salary increases to work routes from 12 April 2023:
Route Current general salary New general salary
Skilled Worker




PhD applicant


PhD in STEM, shortage occupation, new entrant or health/education sector


Hourly rate



















Global Business Mobility


Senior of Specialist


Graduate Trainee


UK Expansion















Scale-up £33,000 £34,600

*note, sponsors will still need to take into account the minimum salary requirement for the going rate for the applicant’s job role.

  • New Innovator Founder route – from 13 April 2023, applicant’s will no longer be able to apply under the Start-up route but may apply to enter the UK under the New Innovator Founder route, which is marketed as a revamped version of the Innovator Route. Unlike its predecessor, there will be no requirement to have a minimum of £50,000 available to invest, together with a relaxation on permitted work meaning that applicants may also work in skilled roles outside of running their business
  • Youth Mobility Scheme – from 29 June 2023, Australia will be afforded an additional 5000 places (bringing its total quota to 35,000 places), Canada will also get an additional 2,000 places (bringing its total to 8,000). There will be more flexible requirements for New Zealand nationals, including raising the maximum age from 30 to 35 and total stay under the visa from two to three years.

If you would like to discuss any of the above measures, or anything else, please do get in touch with our immigration team.