Tier 2 ICT – recent changes & strict criteria
The Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) is generally used by multinational organisations to transfer skilled employees from an overseas office, subsidiary or sister company to fill a post in the UK which cannot be filled by a locally recruited employee.
As you would perhaps expect with the Tier 2 category, there are a number of requirements attached in order for an individual to qualify, including minimum salary thresholds and prior employment requirements.
The Tier 2 ICT route has been subject to significant recent change, so it will be important to ensure you are working to the most up to date rules and requirements (this article is correct as at October 2017).
The rules for Tier 2 ICT
Under the UK Tier 2 ICT visa, any multinational company wishing to transfer an employee from a foreign branch must:
There is no requirement for the employer to advertise the position under the Resident Labour Market Test requirement. However, the organisation will be required to detail the reasons for the transfer in their application.
Note also that ICT visas are not subject to the same annual limit as other Tier 2 visas.
The categories of Tier 2 ICT visa are:
- The ‘Long-term Staff’ category – for the transfer of skilled employees for a period of between 12 months and five years, where a post cannot be filled locally. This can be extended to nine years where the transferee is to be paid a salary of more than £120,000 per annum. To qualify, the foreign employee must have worked for the foreign branch of the multinational company for at least 12 months and receive a salary of at least £41,500 or the relevant rate for that occupation as set out in the Code of Practice, whichever is higher.
- The ‘Graduate Trainee’ category – for recent international graduate employees to be transferred to a UK branch of the company as part of a structured graduate training programme which clearly defines progression towards a managerial or specialist role. Transferees must be recent graduates with at least three months experience in a foreign branch of the multinational. The salary threshold is £23,000.
Note the ‘Short Term’ category is now closed to all new applicants. It can only be used where a CoS was assigned on or before 5 April 2017.
How an employee applies for a Tier 2 ICT visa
The employee is required to apply to UKVI for a Tier 2 ICT visa with a named employer and for a specific, skilled position.
Ordinarily, applicants will apply for a Tier 2 ICT from outside the UK, at an authorised overseas British outpost. Submissions are made online, and supported by original documentation and biometric information.
When applying for a Tier 2 ICT visa, all applicants will need to show that:
- You hold a valid CoS from a licensed UK employer;
- You meet the relevant minimum salary requirement or the minimum level set out in the Standard Occupation Codes guidance for your job type (whichever is higher);
- You are capable of maintaining yourself in the UK according to a set criteria.
Processing times will differ between countries, ranging anywhere from 1-6 weeks, or even longer.
All ICT visa applicants must satisfy the maintenance requirement for themselves and any dependants. In most circumstances, this means the employee must have £945 in savings, although the requirement is not applicable to A-rated sponsors.
If the transferee’s visa is for a period of more than three years they must also satisfy English language requirements.
For the cooling off period to be exempt, the minimum salary requirement is £155,000.
Note also that most ICT visas do not lead to permanent residence in the UK.
Recent changes to the Tier 2 ICT visa route
The Tier 2 ICT visa has been subject to considerable amendment in recent years. The objective – to make it more difficult for multinational companies to transfer foreign employees into the UK.
The most recent changes, which took effect in Autumn 2016 and April 2017, were, in basic terms, designed to streamline the ICT visa into a single visa category, and in some instances relax the rules in line with the UK’s international trade obligations to provide a visa route for senior managers and specialists.
The key updates are as follows:
- Tier 2 (ICT) Skills Transfer category closed
- ‘Short-term’ category closed
- Minimum salary threshold of £41,500 applied to all ICT Visas, regardless of length of employment
- High-earners’ salary for Long-Term ICTs reduced from £155,300 to £120,000
- Recent graduates required to earn a salary of £23,000 (a reduction from the previous requirement of £24,800)
- The one-year experience requirement in the Long-Term ICT category will be removed where the applicant is earning over £73,900
- Any transferee earning a salary of £73,900 or more is no longer be required to demonstrate any prior service at a foreign branch of the company
- Nine-year visas now available to any employee earning £120,000 (a reduction from the current salary threshold of £155,300)
- Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) (£1,000 per tier 2 worker) introduced for employers of Tier 2 migrants.
- Each multinational company permitted to bring 20 graduates into the UK, rather than five