On 3 November 2016, the Government finally published its latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. A summary of the main changes affecting our business clients is provided below.

Tier 2

Changes announced to the Tier 2 route are in the main those that were previously announced by the Government in March this year and implement some of the changes recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee. We previously reported on this in March.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) (ICT))

  • The minimum salary threshold for short term ICT will be increased to £30,000 for new applicants. A transitional arrangement will apply for those already in the UK under this route before 24 November 2016 and can extend. For these workers the £30,000 threshold will not apply. Where a sponsor has issued a CoS prior to 24 November but it is used in an application after 24 November the transitional arrangement will still apply.
  • The Skills Transfer sub-category will be closed to new applicants.
  • In an effort to make the Graduate Trainee sub-category more attractive, the following changes will come in:
    • Graduate Trainees will be allowed to switch between Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes whilst on the programme without their sponsor having to make a change of employment application;
    • the salary threshold has been reduced from £24,800 to £23,000; and
    • the number of places a sponsor can use has been increased from five to 20 per year.

Tier 2 General – minimum salary thresholds
The salary threshold for experienced workers has increased to £25,000. However the salary threshold for new entrants remains £20,800. An exemption from this increase will apply to:

  • nurses
  • medical radiographers
  • paramedics
  • secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin

This exemption will end in July 2019.

Transitional arrangements have been put in place that will apply to those workers sponsored under the Tier 2 (General) category before 24 November 2016. For these workers the £25,000 threshold and the proposed increase to £30,000 in April 2017 will not apply. Where a sponsor has issued a CoS to a new hire prior to 24 November but it is used in an application after 24 November the transitional arrangements will still apply.

From 24 November 2016 those newly sponsored in this category will have no such transitional arrangements and they will need to satisfy the minimum salary threshold applicable at the time in any future application.

Tier 2 General – UK graduates
UK graduates who have returned overseas, whilst still being subject to the Resident Labour Market Test, will be weighted more heavily in the monthly allocation rounds under the Tier 2 limit. Graduates who apply in the UK continue to be exempt from the RLMT.

Changes are made to the process of switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 to prevent an applicant relying on a qualification obtained via supplementary study. This change is likely to impact certain organisations which sponsor international graduates; going forward they will need to have confirmation that the relevant qualification was obtained as part of the student’s main course of study. We are awaiting clarification from the UKVI policy team and will provide further updates.

From April 2017 a change to the Rules around relying on advertising via a milkround will be introduced. Sponsors will be able to continue to rely on a milkround which ended up to four years prior to assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship, but only where the migrant was offered the job within six months of that milkround taking place.

Tier 2 General - Nurses
Nurses will remain exempt from the new Tier 2 General salary threshold of £25,000 for experienced workers. This exemption will however end in July 2019.

Nurses will stay on the Shortage Occupation List but employers will be required to carry out a RLMT before sponsoring new hires from overseas.

Other changes effecting Tier 2 licensed sponsors
The time given to applicants and sponsors to respond to requests for further information in relation to genuineness assessments in both categories will be reduced from 28 calendar days to 10 working days.

A new priority service for sponsors came into effect on 7 November. This service is available for sponsors who want to speed up the processing of the following SMS change of circumstances requests:

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

Sponsors can now choose to pay a fee of £200 and have their request processed within five working days. There is a quota of 20 requests per day and in our experience the requests are currently being granted within one working day.

Changes impacting all applications

In an unexpected change, the 28 day grace period to file applications after leave has expired will effectively be abolished. From 24 November this grace period will be reduced to 14 days. In addition, this will only be possible where there are exceptional circumstances and will be decided at the Secretary of State’s discretion.

Employers and their migrant employees should therefore make sure that they plan ahead. As a reminder where an application is submitted after an applicant's current leave has expired, whilst that application may be accepted for processing by UKVI, section 3C does not apply. Therefore, where an application is submitted after current leave has expired, the applicant will not be allowed to continue to work until they have received a positive decision on their application.