On 16 March 2017, the Home Office published its latest changes to the Immigration Rules. The main changes are particularly relevant for sponsors of Tier 2 migrants and will come into effect on or after 6 April 2017.

Set out in this update are the key changes which impact the Tier 2 and 5 categories, as well as other important changes.

Immigration Skills Charge

As previously announced in our immigration update on 13 February 2017, an Immigration Skills Charge of £1000 per skilled worker per year is being introduced for employers in the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) routes. The charge is £364 for small and charitable sponsors.

There are exemptions for PhD-level occupations, Intra-company Transfer Graduate Trainees and those switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 in the UK.

Immigration Health Surcharge

Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) migrants were previously exempt from this charge but they will now be required to pay a surcharge of £200 per person per year. Dependants will also need to pay the same amount as the main applicant.

Overseas criminal record certificates

Tier 2 (General) applicants coming to work in the education, health and social care sectors will be required to provide a criminal record certificate for each country where they have resided for 12 months or more over the preceding 10 years. This will also apply to their adult dependants.

A certificate will be required for applicants sponsored in these Standard Occupation Classification codes. Applicants in these codes outside of the Tier 2 (General) route, such as Intra-company Transfers are not affected. Certificates will also be required from partners applying from overseas on or after 6 April 2017 who want to join an existing Tier 2 (General) visa holder working in one of these sectors.

Changes to the Tier 2 (General) route

The minimum salary which sponsors can offer a Tier 2 (General) worker is increasing from £25,000 to £30,000 for experienced workers. The current minimum salary of £20,800 will be retained for new entrants. Do note though that the appropriate rate for the job specified in the relevant codes of practice (SOC codes) may well be higher and in fact many of the occupational salary rates in the codes of practice for both new entrants and experienced workers will be increased.

The high earner salary threshold will be increased from £155,300 to £159,600 (for these individuals sponsors are exempt from carrying out a Resident Labour Market Test and from the requirement to assign a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship under the Tier 2 (General) limit). For ‘milkround’ recruitment, changes are being made to the Resident Labour Market Test, including widening the websites which may be used for graduate recruitment from a specified list of four to any freely-available, prominent, graduate recruitment website. A further change is being made whereby a candidate must be offered a job within 12 months of the completion of the advertising relied on (currently six months).

A waiver for the Resident Labour Market Test and an exemption from the Tier 2 (General) limit is being introduced for posts which support the relocation of a high value business to the UK or a significant new inward investment project. The sponsor must be a newly-registered (within the last three years) branch or subsidiary of an overseas business and the investment must involve new capital expenditure of £27 million or the creation of at least 21 new UK jobs.

Changes to the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route

The Short Term Staff category will close, meaning that all Intra-company Transfer workers, except graduate trainees, must qualify under a single route with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500, or the appropriate rate in the codes of practice, whichever is higher.

The salary threshold for senior intra-company transferees who are able to extend their total stay in the category to up to nine years is being reduced, from £155,300 to £120,000.

The requirement for intra-company transferees to have at least one year’s experience working for the sponsor’s linked entity overseas is being removed for applicants paid £73,900 or above.

Changes have been introduced to provide greater clarity and consistency as to which types of allowance will be considered against the salary requirements. Also, the closure of the Short Term Staff sub-category means that accommodation allowances can form a maximum of 30% (rather than 40%) of the total salary package for all intra-company transferees (except Graduate Trainees).

Changes to the Tier 5 route

  • Sponsors of creative workers in the Creative and Sporting sub-category must comply with a recruitment code of practice or otherwise take into account the needs of the resident labour market. A change is being made to waive this requirement for creative sector jobs which appear on the Shortage Occupation List.
  • A further change is being made to the codes of practice for creative workers so that sponsors do not need to carry out a recruitment search where a performer is required for continuity or is engaged by a unit company in relation to productions outside the UK, rather than outside the EEA, as at present. This ensures that non-EEA nationals who have performed in productions elsewhere in the EEA are not disadvantaged.

Other key changes

  • The requirement for points based system dependants to meet the 180 days per annum residency requirement in the UK in order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain has been removed.
  • The period of overstaying which is permitted before a re-entry ban is imposed on individuals who have remained in the UK after their leave to enter or remain has expired will be reduced from 90 days to 30 days where the overstaying began on or after 6 April 2017. Unless specific exceptions apply, anyone who overstays for more than 30 days will be subject to a 12 month re-entry ban.
  • To qualify for ILR on or after 6 April 2022 an individual must be earning at least £37,900.
  • A clarification has been made which confirms that individuals may apply for a visitor visa in any country offering a visa service irrespective or whether or not they are resident in that country.