Game Republic

UK Government’s Changes to Skilled Worker Visa Salary Levels Set to Impact Gaming Industry

Affiliate members Fragomen LLP have provided their insights on the latest policies on the UK Visa system – please read  below:

On December 4, 2023, the Home Secretary announced sweeping measures to tighten up the UK’s work visa system. Most importantly he announced a more than 40% increase in the baseline minimum salary level (MSL) for Skilled Worker visas from £26,200 to £38,700 per year. He also announced the (expected) removal of the existing discount to the MSL for Shortage Occupation List roles and commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to examine a new Immigration Salary List’ and the Graduate visa route. Taken together, the measures were billed by the Home Secretary as delivering “the biggest ever reduction in net migration…and will mean that around 300,000 fewer people will come to the UK in future years than came last year.” The measures, set to take effect in spring 2024, are a direct response to the ONS publication of last year’s net migration figures, showing a record total of 745,000.

What do Visa changes mean for the games industry?

As ever, the devil is in the details.

The increase in the MSL undoubtedly has the potential to cause severe disruption for companies across a number of sectors, including gaming. That said, there are nuances below the headline which should cushion the blow.

For example, looking at immigration data over the past three years for several gaming companies, provides some insight:

  • 30% of visa applications would, prima facie, be refused under the new MSL.
  • 40% of these applications were for roles in design, art, animation, and technical art roles. The average salary for this group was £28,800.
  • 30% of these applications were for programming related occupation codes. The average salary for this group was £34,600.
  • The remainder were spread across production, marketing, and legal roles.

At first glance these figures are enormously concerning. Especially for art and design roles where we found the average salary was nearly £10,000 below the proposed new MSL.

New entrants

The Home Secretary’s announcement left out a crucial component of the system – the discount on the MSL available for new entrants to the workforce. Under the existing framework the new entrants category includes:

  • Applicants under the age of 26 when they apply for their visa.
  • Student visa holders who have graduated (or will soon graduate) and are looking to switch visas.
  • Graduate visa holders who apply to switch to a Skilled Worker.

Currently, being a new entrant qualifies an applicant for a discount of 30% of the MSL for their occupation code. In practice, the baseline MSL for a programmer is currently £34,000 per year, but just £23,800 for a new entrant.

When applying the new entrant provision to the above analysis of a cohort of visa applicants, the picture looks decidedly less dramatic. If new entrant provisions remain:

  • The total number of vulnerable applications reduces to 16% of the total.
  • 35% of these applications were in art and design roles and the average salary for this group was £30,500.
  • 50% of these applications were in programming roles and the average salary for this group was £35,200.

Although the Home Secretary did not directly address the new entrant provisions, meaning it’s not guaranteed to survive the changes, it is very unlikely to be removed.

Shortage Occupation – Immigration Salary List

The current shortage occupation list includes a wide array of jobs in the games industry including programmers, artists, technical artists, producers, directors, and animators.

As part of the package of reforms, the Home Secretary confirmed he had “asked the Migration Advisory Committee to review the occupations on the list because of our new higher skilled worker salary threshold, and we will create a new immigration salary list, with a reduced number of occupations, in co-ordination with MAC.”

Although companies can expect to lose the existing 20% discount to the MSL that is available where a job is listed on the SOL, this is not the end of the story. The MAC’s review and report on the replacement Immigration Salary List will be an opportunity for the industry to make a powerful case for the ongoing inclusion of these shortage roles on the updated list and thus benefit from a discount in the MSL.

What can games businesses do now regarding the new immigration policies?


First and foremost, games businesses should analyse their existing work force and vulnerabilities to the change as part of their recruitment programme planning for 2024.

Next, and perhaps most important, will be the communication to relevant stakeholders, including affected employees and those in the pipeline for hire.

Lastly, companies should prepare to contribute to the upcoming MAC consultation on the Immigration Salary List. This will likely include providing detailed information about the roles the business finds hardest to recruit for and what steps the business has already taken to address these shortages from the local labour force.

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