2017 has been an eventful year for immigration - here is our round up. We also look ahead to 2018.

There have been several changes affecting Tier 2 Sponsors. In January the Immigration Minister announced that the Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 (£364 for small companies) per year would be introduced in April 2017 for all new Tier 2 entry clearance applicants.

For all those employing EU migrants we have had the uncertainty surrounding an agreement on the rights of EU citizens residing in the UK, starting with the triggering of Article 50 in March this year, to set in motion the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. At that time the government had not confirmed which cut-off date would be applicable for EU migrants to secure their on-going rights to reside in the UK and in fact it was not until this month that the UK and the EU have finally agreed on the key principles of the post-Brexit position for EU citizens and their family members resident in the UK. Under the agreement the specified date for retaining on-going rights as an EU citizen will be the date of withdrawal from the EU and under the Article 50 process we expect the date of withdrawal to be 29 Mach 2019.

In March the government published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules which included provisions relating to the introduction of the Immigration Skills Charge, the introduction of the Immigration Health Surcharge for Tier 2 ICT migrants of £200 per year, the closure of the Tier 2 ICT short-term staff category for all new applicants and the increase in the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 General migrants from £25,000 to £30,000. All these changes took effect from April 2017.

In late July, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a review of EU migration and to advise the government of the impact which leaving the EU would have on the UK labour market. The MAC published its call for evidence on 4 August 2017 following which we conducted a survey of our clients and hosted a roundtable event with the MAC and a number of our clients. We later submitted our report to the MAC, based on the evidence we had received from our clients.

In its Autumn budget statement in November the government announced the doubling of the number of visas available for those entering the UK in the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category from 1,000 to 2,000 per annum.

Unusually late in the year, the government published its Autumn Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules on 7 December 2017, which included measures to help students applying for a Tier 2 work visa in the UK and the introduction of entry clearance in electronic form.

There are a number of important immigration changes coming up in 2018. Throughout the next year the MAC will be releasing interim reports based on the evidence it has received regarding EU migration and the government has proposed the introduction of a simplified process for EU nationals to apply for settled status in the UK, possibly in July 2018. The government has also indicated that a new immigration bill will be published, once the MAC has made its final recommendation to the government in September 2018.