24 March 2016
In response to the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) report published earlier this year, the Minister of State for Immigration, James Brokenshire, has announced today that reform to the Tier 2 category of the Points Based System will be implemented in two tranches, later this year (in the autumn) and in April 2017. The Government's announcement confirms that, as anticipated, it will be implementing the majority of the MAC's recommendations.
The Statement of Changes HC 877 (summarised in a recent update on our website) published earlier this month contained only minor changes for April 2016, however the changes announced today are part of the Government's plans to reduce Britain's reliance on migrant workers and will have more significant impact on migrants and employers in the UK.
The main changes include:
Tier 2 (General)
- Tier 2 (General) salary thresholds for experienced workers will be increased in two phases: to £25,000 in autumn 2016, and to £30,000 in April 2017. Although some health and education professionals will be exempt from the higher threshold until July 2019. (The minimum threshold of £20,800 for new entrants will however be maintained);
- nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List, but sponsors will need to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test before recruiting a nurse who is a non-EEA national;
- the Government will not be implementing changes recommended by the MAC for Tier 4 students switching to a Tier 2 visa, and employers will be able to continue to recruit students without being subject to the annual cap on Tier 2 (General) and without having to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test;
- the Tier 2 (General) annual limit of 20,700 for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship will remain.
Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)
- the current Intra Company Transfer (ICT) sub-categories will be simplified by requiring all ICT migrants to qualify under a single visa category, with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500 and the provisions will be amended to provide a route for senior managers and specialists. The Tier 2 (ICT - Skills Transfer) will close to new applications in autumn 2016 and the Tier 2 (ICT Short-Term Staff) category will close to new applications in April 2017;
- Tier 2 (ICT - Graduate Trainees) minimum salary threshold will be reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 and the number each employer may sponsor will be increased from five to 20;
- from autumn 2016, all Tier 2 (ICT) migrants will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge and the extent to which allowances may be counted towards a migrant's salary package is under review;
- from April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (ICT) higher earners who are able to work in the UK between five and nine years will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000 and the requirement for at least one year prior experience at the overseas entity will be removed for migrants whose salary in the UK will be £73,900 or over.
Immigration Skills Charge
An Immigration Skills Charge will be levied on Tier 2 employers at a rate of £1,000 per person per year from April 2017, with a reduced rate of £364 for smaller businesses and charities. There will be an exemption for PhD occupations, Tier 2 (ICT - Graduate Trainees) and Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2.
The Government intends for the changes to the Immigration Rules for work categories to be fully implemented by April 2017 and for the changes to simplify the Rules, making them easier for sponsors and applicants to understand and use. The Government also announced that it would not restrict or remove dependants of Tier 2 migrants' automatic right to work in the UK, as discussed in the MAC report.
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