On 3 November 2016 the Government announced changes to the Immigration Rules most of which will affect applications made on or after 24 November.

The changes include:

Tier 1 Entrepreneur

  • An amendment to clarify that applicants supplying third party evidence do not need to meet the requirement for their bank statements to cover a consecutive 90-day period of time.
  • An amendment to make it clear that applicants who are also accountants
  • Evidence to demonstrate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) reporting to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for employment from 6 October 2013 must include print outs of Real Time Full Payment Submissions which confirm the report of PAYE income tax to HMRC. This must show the total payments made to the settled workers as well as the tax deducted and date which they started work.

Tier 2 of the Points Based System

This is the first phase of changes to Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) announced on 24 March 2016. The first change crosses both Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT):

  • The time given to applicants and sponsors to respond to requests for further information in relation to genuineness assessments in both categories is being reduced from 28 calendar days to 10 working days.

Tier 2 (General)

  • Increased salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000 (but not new entrants where the threshold is held at £20,800). Limited exemptions but only up July 2019.
  • As a transitional arrangement, the £25,000 threshold will not apply to workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) before 24 November 2016, if they apply to extend their stay in the category.
  • The Government intends to increase the threshold to £30,000 in April 2017; there will be no such transitional arrangement for workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) between 24 November 2016 and April 2017 – they will need to satisfy the £30,000 threshold in any future application.
  • Restricted certificates of sponsorship -UK graduates who have returned overseas have been weighted more heavily in the monthly allocation rounds under the Tier 2 limit.
  • Applicants sponsored in graduate training programmes able to change roles without Resident Labour Market Test or for them to make a new application.
  • From April 2017 sponsors can rely on a milk round that ended up to 4 years prior to assigning a certificate of sponsorship but only if the worker was offered the job within 6 months of that milk round taking place.
  • Changes are made to switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 to permit this only where the applicant studied at a UK recognised body or body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution and to also prevent an applicant relying on a qualification obtained via supplementary study.

Nurses

  • They remain exempt from the new Tier 2 General salary threshold of £25,000 p.a. for experienced workers. This exemption will end in July 2019.
  • Nurses will stay on the Shortage Occupation List but employers must now carry out a Resident Labour Market Test before sponsoring new hires from overseas.
  • Other provisions relating to pay grades and timelines for nurse sponsored as pre-registration candidates which were previously only in the Home Office’s Guidance documents have now been enshrined in Appendix A of the Immigration Rules. For example, employers must stop sponsoring pre-registration candidate nurses who do not pass their OSCE and obtain full NMC registration within 8 months of the start date on their CoS.

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)

  • The salary for short term ICT applicants has been increased to £30,000 for new applicants. A transitional arrangement applies for those already in the UK under the short term route.
  • The Skills Transfer sub-category will be closed to new applicants.
  • The salary threshold in the Graduate Trainee sub-category has been reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 and the number of places a sponsor can use has been increased from 5 to 20 per year.

NB. Some of the Tier 2 changes will not apply where a CoS is issued before the 24 November 2016 and advice should be taken as to whether this applies.

Appendix FM

  • New English language requirement at level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is being introduced for non-EEA partners and parents on Appendix FM visas applying to extend their stay. The new requirement will apply to partners and parents whose current leave under Appendix FM is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017.
  • Discretionary ground of refusal on the basis of an NHS debt has been reduced to £500.

All applications

  • Removal of 28 day grace period to file applications after leave has expired. Replaced with Secretary of State’s discretion where an application is filed late up to 14 days - but only where there are exceptional circumstances.

Future changes to consider

Further changes are expected in April 2017, which we understand will include:

  1. Tier 2 - Introduce the Immigration Skills Charge, up to £1,000.00 per migrant worker, per year
  2. Remove the exemption for the Tier2 (ICT) category paying the Immigration Health Surcharge
  3. Increase the Tier 2 (General) threshold to£30,000 for experienced workers
  4. Close the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term category to new applications.
  5. Reduce the high-earners’ salary for Long-Term ICTs from £155,300 to£120,000
  6. Remove the one year experience requirement in the Long-Term category where the applicant is earning over £73,900
  7. Introduce a waiver for the Resident Labour Market Test and prioritise Tier 2(General) places where the visa grant(s) are in support of the relocation of a high-value business to the UK or, potentially, an inward investment project
  8. Implement any recommendations as a result of the review of allowances under the Tier 2 (ICT) categories

Other developments

A new optional priority service for sponsors who want to speed up the processing of the following SMS requests:

  • Change authorisation officer
  • Add a new level 1 user
  • Add or renew the allocation of certificates of sponsorship.

Essentially, they can now choose to pay a fee (it has yet to be decided how much) and have their request processed within 5 working days. There is a quota of 20 requests per day and it goes live on 7 November 2016.

The mechanics of the system are set out in this document.