How a Labour Government Will Impact Immigration in the UK

Published 22 July 2024

In a monumental shift in the landscape of UK politics, the Labour Party has triumphed in the 2024 UK General Election, ending the Conservative Party’s 14 years in power. Led by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party will now be a dominant force in the UK political landscape.

Starmer has promised the UK a “government of service” and a period of “national renewal” (BBC, 2024), signalling a new direction for the UK and aiming to focus on addressing the nation’s pressing issues.

So with a new party and PM in charge, how will immigration in the UK change?

Conservative’s stance on immigration

Throughout their 14 years in majority power, the Conservative Party implemented significant immigration reforms, often focusing on strict controls and a strong focus on reducing net migration.

Conservative Party immigration policies

Some of these key measures have been relatively recent, meaning the full impacts are yet to be experienced. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of these policies:

  • Student Visa regulation changes: From 1st January 2024, international students were unable to bring dependents with them on a UK Visa, unless on research postgraduate programmes. The ability for students to switch to a work Visa before their studies are completed was also removed.
  • Skilled Worker Visa changes: The Skilled Worker Visa route experienced a mammoth shift with the introduction of higher salary thresholds and the removal of the 20% going rate salary discount. The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) was also replaced with the Immigration Salary List (ISL) in line with these increased thresholds.

The Conservative Party had an overall goal of reducing net migration, with data analysis projecting a 300,000 estimated inflow impact (reduction). It’s crucial to note that this is an estimate only, and any final figure will be highly subjective to other factors out with preliminary data.

Labour’s stance on immigration

Throughout the 2024 election cycle, Starmer and the Labour Party shared multiple talking points about immigration both in the press and formally in the Labour Party manifesto.

Similar to the previous Conservative Party, Labour has stated that the Party will “reduce net migration” through balanced means that meet the economic needs of the country, however hasn’t set a target to work towards.

Key elements of talking points throughout the Labour Party campaign have been skills training and upskilling UK workforces, whilst focusing on employer accountability to ensure fair treatment and compliance.

Whilst there is no set target, in contrast to the Conservative’s 300k figure shared above, the Labour Party appears to be focused on an action-focused approach that focuses on reducing the demand for net migration, in contrast to the Conservative’s approach that reduces the supply.

Potential UK immigration policy changes

With this information in mind, how can we expect the UK immigration landscape to change under Starmer and the Labour Party? And how will it affect individuals and employers?

Addressing the skills shortage

Labour has stated an intent to address the skills shortage across the UK with enhanced training and upskilling opportunities.

With a greater focus on addressing home-grown skills, Labour’s policy will “reduce the reliance on overseas workers”, encouraging businesses not to look overseas to fill skill gaps. Labour has stated it will have different parts of the government create skills improvement plans in high-migration sectors, however, there is no information as of yet on how these could be implemented.

Skilled Workers and the Immigration Salary List (ISL)

As part of its goal to target the skills shortage with upskilling and training, the Labour Party has stated its intention to remove occupations from the ISL if a sector is seen to not be engaging with the proposed skills improvement plans.

Family Visa routes

The Labour Party states no intention to reverse the prohibiting of family members and dependents accompanying individuals on Student or Carer Visas, however has previously shared intentions to ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to investigate this impact.

However it’s been noted that the Labour Party initially had concerns about the policy when it was introduced, so there may be a chance that this is a policy the party will revisit in the future although this is in no way guaranteed.

Increasing MAC involvement with the points-based system

A points-based system is nothing new, however, Labour is committed to making changes to this following Conservative leadership and control.

Labour argues that the system should be structured to ensure adequate investment in training and skills, urging that employers must earn the privilege of immigrant labour and international recruitment following lawful business and employment practices.

Health and Care Visas

Following multiple cases of alleged exploitation in the care sector, the Labour Party states its intentions to open an investigation into the treatment of migrant workers if winning the election.

Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, shared “Stories of people being unfairly charged thousands of pounds by agencies and employers who are profiting from overseas recruitment are a total disgrace. There must be a full investigation into these reports to ensure standards are upheld, and exploitative employers are prosecuted” (The Guardian, 2024).

This statement aligns with Labour’s focus on upholding standards of accountability and quality for employers who utilise international recruitment and the possibilities provided by visa routes into the UK.

Student Visas

The Labour Party has shared its views on the “major contributions” international students make to the UK economy, however is yet to share further information on any specific policies surrounding Student Visas.

Further updates may be observed when the party has furthered its efforts on creating sector-specific skills improvement plans.

Impacts on businesses and employers

The Labour Party has always focused on being pro-business and pro-worker, and pledges to kickstart a reform of UK employment law in its first 100 days in office with its New Deal for Working People being a core part of its election manifesto.

So how will the switch from Conservative to Labour impact businesses and employers?

Increased UK training opportunities for sector-specific skills gaps

Sectors experiencing severe shortages of skilled workers will be encouraged to engage in training and apprenticeship opportunities to promote the utilisation of in-country workers and reduce the need for international recruitment.

The party has shared that training will be focused on an initial four sectors, health and social care, construction, engineering and IT, and employers shown to not take sufficient steps to provide training may be sanctioned. These four sectors will have a workforce plan created to support the training of workers in the UK and reduce reliance on overseas workers.

Greater compliance requirements

Labour wants to lengthen bans on hiring overseas staff for employers who don’t comply with minimum wage or other employment laws.

These bans would aim to increase ineligibility periods for businesses to obtain a Sponsor Licence and increase other visa penalties.

Whilst all businesses should proactively follow employment laws and regulations, it’s critical that Sponsor Licence holders remain compliant with all necessary compliance and HR regulations to avoid any penalties or sanctions.

Potential reviews of Visa rules

Whilst there are no guarantees for future change, Labour vowed to review recent changes to visa rules back in March.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) would be responsible for investigating any potential impact on the increase of salary thresholds and the ban on Student and Care Worker Visa holders bringing dependents with them to the UK.

Data from this may then impact future immigration policies, meaning potential salary threshold or visa requirement changes.

Immigration advice from Five Star International

Immigration in the UK is an ever-changing landscape, so it’s crucial to stay informed about recent updates – whether you’re an individual already in the UK, a potential overseas worker or an employer.

The Labour Party’s focus on reducing the requirement for immigration and international recruitment brings with it impacts for both businesses and immigrants that will only be revealed over time.

Navigating immigration, visas and Sponsor Licence applications can be challenging. At Five Star, we’re committed to providing personalised advice and support.

Whether you’re a business owner looking to adapt to new regulations or an individual planning your next steps, we can offer a comprehensive service to support your requirements.

Contact us

Don’t navigate the complexities of immigration alone. Let our specialists guide you towards a successful outcome.

Contact Us