A number of further immigration changes impacting UK employers were published last week. Click here for full details.

Changes to the Visitor Rules Impacting Business Visits

  • Changes to the Visitor Rules will come into force on 24 April 2015. These are intended to streamline and simplify the rules, making them easier for employers and others to access in one place. There will also be more flexibility in terms of what activities business visitors can undertake.
  • There are currently 15 visitor categories which will be streamlined down to four.
  • The two categories that employers need to know about are:  - the Visitor (Standard) category; and  - the Visitor for Permitted Paid Engagements category.
  • The existing Business Visitor category will be subsumed along with other existing visitor categories into the Visitor (Standard) category.
  • This broader category will allow more flexibility in terms of what business visitors can do. Anyone in this Standard category will be able to carry out any activities permitted by this broader "Standard"category. So, for example, someone will be able to carry out some business activities and also take a holiday without breaching the rules. This is not the case at present as someone entering the UK as a business visitor can only undertake those defined business activities.
  • Appendix 3 of the new Visitor Rules will provide a full list of activities that are permitted, and businesses should consult this list if they are planning to host a business visitor.  The following "new" permitted activities will be added to the existing list: - Business visitors can carry out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days for a charity; - Businesses can allow overseas trainers to deliver training to UK-based employees of a multinational company in some cases; - UK-based organisations which are not corporate entities can provide training to overseas visitors on work practices that are needed for their employment overseas in some circumstances. - overseas lawyers can advise a UK client on international transactions and litigation.

In the future, UK businesses may be asked to provide a written undertaking agreeing to "maintain and accommodate" their business visitor under the new Visit Rules. It is not currently possible for businesses to make undertakings of this sort (as only friends and family are permitted to do this under the rules). This change is designed to assist UK businesses which are prepared to provide financial support and accommodation to a visitor. 

There are also some changes to the permitted paid engagement Visitor category. This category permits certain individuals to come to the UK for up to one month for specific purposes (including some academics, lecturers, lawyers, artists, entertainers, musicians and sports persons).

Other Changes from 6 April 2015

  • The shortage occupation list will be amended following a review by the Migration Advisory Committee. These jobs are exempt from the resident labour market test. Employers should consult the updated list.
  • Minimum salary requirements for jobs which are eligible for sponsorship under Tier 2 will be updated as follows:   - The minimum salary for jobs to qualify for sponsorship under Tier 2 will be the greater of the appropriate rate for that job or £20,800 (rather than £20,500). - For jobs to be exempt from advertising on Job Centre Plus, the new salary requirement will be £72,500 (rather than £71,600). - For jobs to be exempt from the annual immigration cap, the resident labour market test and the 12 month cooling off period, the new salary requirement will be £155,300 (rather than £153,500). - For jobs to qualify for a short term Intra Company Transfer, the new minimum salary requirement will be £24,800 (rather than £24,500) or the specified appropriate salary for the job. - For jobs to qualify for a long term Intra Company Transfer, the new minimum salary requirement will be £41,500 (rather than £41,000) or the specified appropriate salary for the job.
  • The overall immigration cap that applies to Tier 2 (General) sponsorship applications will remain the same for the new year commencing 6 April 2015 (20,700 places for the UK for the year). However, the immigration cap is being adjusted throughout the year so that there will be a higher allocation available in the first few months of the year when demand is higher, and it will reduce later in the year.
  • A new exemption from the cooling off period rules will be introduced. These rules prevent certain individuals from re-entering the UK under Tier 2 within 12 months of them leaving the UK under Tier 2. The cooling off rules will no longer apply to grants of Tier 2 leave of three months or less. This will improve flexibility for some businesses.