Further to our last Update, we summarise below the recent, main changes to the Immigration Rules and Guidance as relevant to your business. Save as otherwise stated, these changes are effective from 6 April 2015.

Tier 2 (General)

  • The Annual Quota for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship has been maintained at 20,700. The April 2015 allocation will be 2,550 with subsequent months at 1,650. Any monthly surplus will be rolled into the next month's allocation.
  • The minimum remuneration to be paid to a Migrant will increase to £20,800. As usual, where the appropriate salary rates as stated in the relevant Code of Practice (COP) are higher, these higher rates will need to be paid to the Migrant.
  • The remuneration threshold to be considered a 'High Earner' and thus exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), monthly Quota requirements and Cooling off 'periods' will increase to£155,300 from £153,500.
  • Where the RLMT is applicable, roles offering salaries below £72,500 (previously £71,600) will need to be advertised on Universal Jobmatch / Job Centre Plus as well as one other approved forum.
  • The Shortage Occupation List has been updated. Those jobs on the Shortage Occupation List are exempt for the RLMT requirements.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)

  • The minimum remuneration to be paid to a Migrant will increase to £24,800 for Short Term Staff / Skills Transfer / Graduate Trainees and £41,500 for the Long Term Staff sub-category. As above, where the appropriate salary rates as stated in the relevant COP are higher, these higher rates will need to be paid to the Migrant.

Cooling Off

Presently, for most Tier 2 Migrants, a 12 month "cooling off" period after they have left the UK / their leave has expired applies to an applicant seeking to return to the UK as a Tier 2 Migrant. For visas issued after 6 April 2015, the cooling off period will not apply to grants of Tier 2 leave of 3 months or less. So good news for those businesses who need to transfer key staff frequently for very short periods, albeit no single grant must exceed 3 months.

Codes of Practice (COPs)

Certain COPs will be updated with increased higher minimum rates of pay for Migrants.

Immigration Health Surcharge

With effect from 6 April 2015, the UK government will introduce an immigration health surcharge to be paid by non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who apply to come to the UK to work, study or join family for a period of more than 6 months. The surcharge will also need to be paid by non-EEA nationals who are already in the UK and apply to extend their stay after 6 April 2015. The aim of this is to give those individuals who pay the surcharge the same access to the National Health Service (NHS) as a permanent UK resident. The key points to note are:

  • The surcharge is £200 per year for each of the main applicant and each of their dependants.
  • The full surcharge is payable at the time of the application. For example, if a person is submitting a Tier 2 General application (3 year duration) with parallel leave for their spouse and one child, the total surcharge payable at the time of the application is £1,800 (£600 per year for each applicant).
  • The surcharge does not apply to Tier 2 ICT Migrants and their family members;
  • Australian and New Zealand nationals are exempt for the surcharge.

Tier 1 (General)

As mentioned in our April 2014 Bulletin, with effect from 6 April 2015, the Government will close this category for any extension applications. However, Tier 1 General Migrants have until 6 April 2018 to submit any settlement applications.

Update as to Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) being issued overseas

Following on from our bulletin of 17 February 2015, the roll - out of BRPs has now begun for applications submitted in Pakistan. Indications are that the next phases of the roll – out will be in mid-April 2015 and at the end of May 2015 with the final roll – out to the remainder of countries in July 2015.

Visitors

Effective 24 April 2015, the Home Office will reduce the present 15 Visitor visa categories to just 4. The 4 new categories will be:

  1. Visitors (standard) including Business Visitors and Prospective Entrepreneur Visitors;
  2. Visitors hold their marriage or civil partnership in the UK;
  3. Visitors undertaking permitted paid engagements; and
  4. Visitors transiting the UK.

Although categories have been streamlined, with limited exceptions there is little change to those activities permitted, for example as a Business Visitor or Visitor.

Those holding a valid visit visa that was issued prior to 24 April 2015 can use this to enter the UK provided they are still a genuine visitor and they will be able to use this visa to carry out the additional permitted activities.