On the topic of immigration there is rarely a moment for pause and with migration issues at the forefront of the political agenda we expect to see more of the same. Below are some recent items that may be of interest.

Queen’s Speech

The high level immigration issues identified in the Queen’s Speech are likely to take a little while to make it into legislation but with a focus on failure to advertise roles in the UK becoming an offence is naturally a cause for concern. The proposed changes should serve as a prompt for some housekeeping around recruitment and a look into process to ensure that nothing falls through the gaps whilst we wait to see what actual changes this announcement brings about and whether it will go as far as to impact on the Resident Labour Market Test. Overall there appears to be a general focus on tackling illegal working and migrant exploitation as well as consultation on a levy for businesses that use migrant workers to fund UK training programmes. We have already seen a more aggressive stance from UK Visas and Immigration in the last few years and that is likely to be a consistent theme with the formation of a single and more empowered enforcement body.

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

The Immigration Health Surcharge is now bedding in and migrants seeking leave in the UK are now required to pay a fixed fee of £200 per person per year up to the maximum grant of leave for each visa category. Fees are governed by visa type so an applicant applying for a Tier 2 General with a CoS valid for 2 years will need to pay £600 as the maximum permissible time on their CoS could be 3 years. The additional £200 will be refunded after entry to the UK but this can take up to six months. Migrants who fail to pay the surcharge as part of their application will be refused a visa. Discussions with HMRC have also highlighted that where companies choose to pay the charge for their employees will need to treat this as a taxable benefit which is also liable to Class 1 National Insurance Contributions. Employers who are considering funding this charge for their visa hires should speak with their tax teams to understand any implications.

Biometric Residence Permits on Arrival

Employers who have handled a recent visa application may have noticed that migrants are now being issued with short term entry visas which are then replaced by Biometric Residence Permits upon arrival in the UK. The key to managing this change is good communication with prospective migrant workers to ensure that they are aware that their entry visa will not be for the full duration of their sponsorship. These migrants will need to obtain a secondary permit on arrival in the UK to validate their right to remain and work. It is also important to note that migrants must travel to the UK during the period of validity on their entry visa. If they plan to delay their travel then employers will need to be sure that they update their visa application before submission to UKVI. Employers should ensure they are taking copies of the correct permit and that their migrants are proactively going to obtain their permit in the first 10 days in the UK as failure to do so will result in fines and ultimately cancellation of the individual’s permission to remain.

Application Fees

As ever with a new financial year comes the rising costs of official fees. There have been small rises across the board with a Tier 2 visa including CoS and health surcharge coming in at £2,128 for a five year visa for a single applicant. We are asking employers to ensure they are using the right forms for applications and that they refresh their fees tables when briefing hiring managers on costs.

Tier 2 Annual Limit

Finally there are indications that the annual limit of 20,700 Restricted CoS set for each year since 2010 may be reached during this CoS year April 2015 to March 2016. Whilst nothing is set in stone the year on year increase in usage is showing a likely trend that restricted hires will be subject to tighter restrictions as the year goes by.