On 3 November 2016, the Government announced a number of changes to the Immigration Rules which will come into force on 24 November 2016. I will be writing a summary of these changes over the coming weeks but the most important changes affecting businesses who sponsor migrant workers under Tier 2 are as follows:
Tier 2 (General)
Those employers now sponsoring experienced workers under Tier 2 will be expected to pay a minimum of £25,000. Nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin will be exempt from this increase but this will end in July 2019.
By way of a transitional provision, the £25,000 threshold will not apply to workers already currently sponsored in Tier 2 (General) before 24 November 2016, in the event they apply to extend their visa in the Tier 2 category. However, the Government has announced its intention to increase the threshold to £30,000 in April 2017 and furthermore, the same transitional arrangements for workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) between 24 November 2016 and April 2017. This means that they will need to satisfy the £30,000 threshold in any future application.
The Government has clearly recognised the continued importance of employers being able to recruit non-EU Graduates currently here under the Tier 4 students category in the UK and has therefore not changed the current salary threshold of £20,800 for ‘new entrants’, such as those students under the age of 26 years switching from Tier 4 visas to Tier 2 work visas.
The Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)
- The Tier 2 (ICT – Skills Transfer) category is to close from 24 November 2016.
- Tier 2 (ICT – Short Term) minimum salary threshold is to increase quite significantly from £24,800 to £30,000.
- Tier 2 (ICT – Graduate Trainees) the minimum salary threshold will reduce to £23,000 (previously £24,800) previously where the number of trainees a business could sponsor was only 5, this is now set to increase to 20.
As businesses are going to be hit with the Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per year per sponsored worker from April 2017, businesses may wish to avoid this by careful planning of some of their workers coming to the UK via the intra-company transfer route.
There is a temporary reprieve as the Government has not as yet introduced the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) to Tier 2 (ICT) migrants and their dependants which had been expected.
It is clear that the introduction of these provisions in due course will be a significant extra burden on businesses bringing each worker under this route.
From April 2017, the rules around advertising via a ‘milk round’ will also be introduced such that sponsors will only be able to rely on a ‘milk round’ which ended up to 4 years prior to assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship if the migrant was offered the job within 6 months of that ‘milk round’ taking place.
The Government is also introducing provisions to prevent switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 where the migrant is relying on a qualification obtained via supplementary study in order to ‘prevent abuse’.
Whilst nurses are being retained on the Shortage Occupation List, a Resident Labour Market Test will now to have been carried out before a Certificate of Sponsorship can be assigned. The rules regarding preregistration nurses are also being consolidated.
Employers are reminded that when the Immigration Act comes into force on 1 December 2016, Immigration officers will have the power to close a business for up to 48 hours where an employer is found to have committed immigration offences and will also be able to apply to the court to extend any such closure and apply for other special measures in order to prevent illegal working.
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