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Getting over the threshold: 25% of work visas go to those earning less than £30,000

18 Jun 2019

A quarter of non-EU migrant workers who receive Tier 2 (general) work visas for the UK earn less than the £30,000 “minimum income threshold”, Freedom of Information (FOI) data requested by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has shown.

While many commentators assume that all non-EU citizens coming on work visas have to meet a uniform threshold of £30,000, FOI data published in the latest Migration Observatory commentary “Threshold? Which threshold?” shows that 90% of nurses sponsored for Tier 2 (general) work visas in 2018 were to be paid less than this amount.

Other public sector occupations had lower but still substantial shares of workers earning below £30,000, with 50% of medical radiographers and 10% of paramedics in this position. Among secondary school teachers, the share was 37%.

The reason this is possible is that certain public service occupations are exempt from the threshold. In these professions minimum incomes are the standard rates of pay for these jobs, so long as it is at least £20,800. A majority of people sponsored to come to the UK on salaries of less than £30,000 were in public service occupations.

New entrants to the labour market – including non-EU workers switching to a work visa after studying in the UK, and people under the age of 26 – also face the lower threshold of £20,800.

But non-EU workers in some occupations have to receive much higher salaries to qualify for Tier 2 (general) visas – such as £76,000 for consultant doctors, £69,600 for pilots and £38,400 for electrical engineers.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “The idea that the Government might introduce a single £30,000 salary threshold for EU workers after Brexit has caused consternation, but it is important to remember that it is likely that not everyone will have to meet it. In reality there is no single salary threshold to work in the UK – there are many of them.

“The NHS has recruited growing numbers of non-EU nurses over the past few years and essentially the only reason this has been possible is that nurses are exempt from the salary requirements many other workers face.”

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