Various changes were made to the Immigration Rules recently, the majority of which came into force on 24 November 2016. The most significant of the changes are those to Tier 2 of the points based system.

Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)

Changes to Tier 2(General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) were announced in March 2016. The changes will be introduced in two phases, in autumn 2016 and April 2017. The change for autumn 2016 are as follows:

  • From 7 November sponsors can pay £200 to have requests for a change of authorising officer, adding a level 1 user and adding or renewing the allocation of certificates of sponsorship processed within 5 working days.
  • From 24 November 2016 applicants and sponsors will only be given ten working days to respond to requests for further information in relation to genuineness assessments (a reduction from 28 calendar days).

Tier 2 (General)

  • The salary threshold for experienced workers has been increased to £25,000 for the majority of new applicants. The salary threshold for new entrants stays the same, at £20,800. This new increase will not apply to nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin until July 2019.
  • For workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) before 24 November 2016, the £25,000 threshold will not apply if they apply to extend their stay in the same category.
  • Applicants sponsored in graduate training programmes will be able to change occupation within or at the end of the programme without a further application or Resident Labour Market Test being required.
  • Nurses will be retained on the Shortage Occupation List, but a Resident Labour Market Test must be carried out before a Certificate of Sponsorship can be assigned.
  • UK graduates applying from abroad will be weighted more heavily in the monthly allocation of restricted certificates of sponsorship.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)

  • The minimum salary for short term ICT applicants will be increased to £30,000 for new applicants. There are transitional arrangements in place for those currently in the UK under this route.
  • The Skills Transfer sub-category will be closed to new applicants.
  • There has been a reduction in the salary in the graduate trainee sub-category from £24,800 to £23,000 an increase in the number of candidates a sponsor can sponsor from 5 to 20 per year, and graduate trainees will be able to switch their Standard Occupational Classification Code while on the programme (a change of employment application is no longer required).

Changes to applications

  • From 24 November the 28 day grace period to file an application after leave has expired will be reduced to 14 days, and applications will only be allowed where there are exceptional circumstances (to be determined at the Secretary of State's discretion). It's worth noting that applicants who apply after their leave has expired do not have the benefit of 3C leave (which allows them to work while their application is being decided), so applications should always be made during the period of leave.

Forthcoming changes

Changes expected to come into force in April 2017 include:

  • An Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per sponsored worker per year.
  • The salary threshold for experienced workers in Tier 2 (General) will be increased to £30,000.
  • A loophole in the milkround advertising requirement will be closed. Sponsors will still be able to rely on milkrounds that ended up to four years before the assignment of a certificate of sponsorship, however they must have offered the candidate a job within six months of the end of the milkround.
  • ICT applicants will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (adding £200 per person per year).
  • The ICT Short Term Staff route will close.