New Immigration Policies Under a Labour Government. What to Expect?

The new week brings a promising development with the announcement that the controversial Rwanda Scheme is on its way to be scrapped!

As the newly elected Labour government settles in, one of their first actions under the leadership of Prime Minister Keir Starmer has confirmed the scrapping of the plan to deport vulnerable migrants to Rwanda. This controversial scheme, introduced by the previous Conservative administration, has been described by the new Prime Minister as “dead and buried”.

The new Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, has announced that her department will be conducting a thorough audit of the funds committed by the Conservatives to the Rwanda plan, with the aim of utilising the funds for more important and workable projects to benefit the UK economy. This move has been widely welcomed as the new Government follows through on its campaign promise.

This positive news marks a significant shift in the UK’s approach to immigration and asylum, signalling a departure from the hard line policies of the previous regime. The scrapping of the Rwanda scheme is seen as a step towards a more compassionate and humane system that prioritises the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals over political expediency.

As the country adapts to the new political landscape, this development is likely to be closely watched both domestically and internationally, as the new Government seeks to establish its distinctive approach to one of the most pressing challenges facing the nation.

However, the plan to reduce net migration remains at the heart of Labour’s future policies as well.

As the new Labour government settles in, their stance on net migration has come into focus. While the party has stated its intention to “reduce net migration”, they have acknowledged that setting a specific target may not be the most sensible approach. Instead, their focus appears to be on policies that would contribute to a gradual reduction in net migration, aiming for a figure of “a couple of hundred thousand a year”.

It’s worth noting that the latest forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility, published in March 2024, suggests that net migration could settle around 350,000 per year over the next five years, even without further intervention. This level of net migration is anticipated to have a positive fiscal impact, reducing public sector borrowing by an estimated £7.4 billion by 2028-2029.

Furthermore, a significant proportion of this net migration figure is attributed to international students, whose tuition fees play a crucial role in supporting the range of courses offered by UK universities and compensating for financial losses on domestic students and research. These international students also contribute to the UK’s short-term labour supply, both as students and as participants in the Graduate route.

As the new government formulates its policies on net migration, it will need to carefully balance the various economic and social factors at play. Striking the right balance between reducing net migration and maintaining the benefits that international talent and investment can bring to the UK will be a key challenge for the Labour administration.

From the indications given through their manifesto, we already anticipate immigration. policies on work routes to have the first direct impact. Here is a quick refresher on what to expect.

Based on the party’s manifesto commitments, we can anticipate the initial impact of Labour’s immigration policies will be felt through changes to work-related visa routes.



The Labour government has outlined a clear vision for reforming work-based immigration policies to better address skills shortages while also upskilling the resident workforce. Some key elements of their proposed approach include:=

– Requiring sponsors in sectors like construction, IT, engineering, and adult social care to adhere to government-determined workforce plans and fair pay agreements.

– Disallowing individual companies from sponsoring workers if they are deemed not to be doing enough to train their own workforce.

– Removing occupations from the Immigration Salary Threshold list if sectors fail to engage with their workforce development plans, with exemptions for compliant employers.

– Longer ineligibility periods and increased visa penalties for ‘rogue employers’ who violate minimum wage and other labour laws.

– Enhancing the role and influence of the Migration Advisory Committee, linking it to skills bodies, the Industrial Strategy Council, and the Department for Work and Pensions.

– Commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee to investigate the impacts of the previous government’s April 2024 increases to Skilled Worker salary thresholds, as well as the March 2024 prohibition on care workers bringing dependants.

This multi-faceted approach reflects Labour’s intent to fine-tune the immigration system to better meet the UK’s skills needs, while also incentivizing employers to invest in training and upskilling the domestic workforce. It signals a shift away from blanket measures towards more nuanced, sector-specific policies.


One area the Labour government may focus on is negotiating new arrangements with the EU to facilitate touring for UK-based performers.

The cost and administrative burden of touring between the UK and Europe has increased significantly for many artists and performers since Brexit. This issue has been highlighted in the report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, titled “Let the Music Move – A New Deal for Touring”.

By pursuing more favourable immigration provisions for creative professionals, the Labour administration could help to alleviate some of the challenges faced by the UK’s vibrant arts and entertainment sectors. Improving mobility and reducing bureaucratic hurdles for touring performers could enable them to more easily share their talents with audiences across Europe.

UK-EU Youth Mobility Scheme

According to statements made by the Labour party, they do not currently have plans to negotiate a youth mobility scheme with the European Union.

This is likely a reflection of the party’s more cautious approach to immigration policies compared to the expansive proposals that have been floated for such a scheme. An EU-UK youth mobility arrangement could potentially lead to a significant increase in net migration figures, potentially exceeding the levels Labour is aiming for.

Such an initiative could assist in addressing labour shortages in sectors like hospitality, leisure, retail, and childcare, including au pair work.

The unsponsored nature of the Youth Mobility Route and its focus on young people seeking to combine work and cultural experiences means the migrant profile is less likely to be vulnerable to exploitation compared to some other work-based immigration routes.

Seasonal Workers

The Labour have signalled their intent to introduce legislative and enforcement measures aimed at tackling the exploitation of migrant workers.

This is a critical issue that requires attention, given the dual imperatives of maintaining the productivity and capacity of the UK’s agricultural sector, while also ensuring the wellbeing and rights of those working within it – including the significant migrant workforce.

The previous administration did take some steps in this direction, such as introducing a minimum 32-hour week guarantee for Seasonal Workers in April 2023. They also claimed to be monitoring migrant worker welfare more closely than before.

However, there are still notable gaps that the incoming Labour government may seek to address. For instance, the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner is currently vacant, and the recommendations from the Horticultural Sector Committee’s report, “Sowing the seeds: a blooming English horticultural sector”, have yet to be fully implemented to protect Seasonal Workers nationwide.

International Students & Graduates 

The Labour party has acknowledged the substantial contribution made by international students to the UK, recognising them as an important export earner and generator of soft power for the country. However, for now they have not made any specific policy announcements regarding this cohort so far.

We can expect that the Labour government would be reviewing the recommendations of Migration Advisory Committee  and feedback from the education sector when it comes to formulating immigration policies that specifically impact the international student population.

Family Visa Routes

The Labour party has generally silent to the increases in the minimum income requirement for family visa routes, introduced by the previous Conservative government.

Specifically, the Conservatives raised the minimum income threshold from £18,600 per year to £29,000 per year, effective from 11 March 2024. This was a significant increase aimed at tightening eligibility criteria for some visa applicants.

While Labour has not outlined any firm policy proposals to reverse or further modify these income requirements, it seems that the current policy in place will remain intact.

Addressing Shortcomings in the EU Settlement Scheme

The administration and implementation of the EU Settlement Scheme has been the source of ongoing concerns, with questions raised over whether it fully complies with the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreements.

While some enhancements to the scheme have been agreed upon following legal action by the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements, several issues remain unresolved. For example, the absence of an automatic process for considering settled status eligibility, as well as outstanding changes to right to work and right to rent checks for pre-settled status holders.

The participants in the EU Settlement Scheme were the first cohort of migrants to be granted a digital-only immigration status in the UK. However, this shift away from physical documentation has led to significant problems for many in this group.

EU Settlement Scheme holders have reported extensive difficulties when it comes to proving their status while travelling, establishing their right to work, demonstrating their right to rent, and accessing government services such as the NHS. The digital-only system has created new hurdles and uncertainties for this population.

Whilst the government will review the real-world experiences of EU Settlement Scheme participants to ease their transition to the automation process, in the interim, the government should consider providing physical documents to existing digital visa holders, including those in the EU Settlement Scheme. This would help alleviate the challenges they have faced and ensure a more reliable means of proving their immigration status.

European Convention on Human Rights

In a clear departure from the approach of the previous government, the Labour party has stated that it would continue to maintain the UK’s status as a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Keeping up with the Changes

The Labour government’s ascension to power ushers in a significant shift in the UK’s approach to immigration policies. Marking a clear departure from the hard line stance of the previous administration, the new regime is poised to introduce a more nuanced and evidence-based framework.

As these policy developments unfold, it is crucial for all advisors to remain fully informed and up to date on the evolving immigration policies.  Keeping up with the changes, the Mastering Immigration Law resources will be thoroughly updated.

By subscribing, advisors can unlock a range of benefits, including access to regularly updated online resources, a 15% discount on live webinars with immigration experts, and CPD coverage.

The latest hardcopy edition of the Mastering Immigration Law is now available for pre-order, that will provide comprehensive insights and explanations on the new rules and policies as they are rolled out.

This presents a valuable opportunity to stay ahead of the curve and ensure you are well-equipped on the changing immigration framework under the new Labour government for your clients!

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By Shareen Khan
Content Writer, HJT Training

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