On 29 October 2015, the Home Office published its latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. The most relevant for points based system Sponsors are those relating to Tier 2. These changes have been set out below and are due to become effective from 19 November 2015.

Further below we have also outlined an update on other immigration related changes, including the US extending its passport fast-track scheme to UK citizens and further roll out of criminal record checks.

Tier 2 changes

  • A number of additional jobs have been added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL):
    • All nursing posts – although a temporary measure, pending the outcome of a further consultation by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the MAC will then report on the need for nurses to remain on the SOL. This is very welcome news for the profession as it means that nurses will not now need to meet the £35,000 qualifying salary threshold for Tier 2 (General) applicants, in order to secure permanent residence in the UK from April 2016
    • Four roles in the digital technology sector (product manager, data scientist, senior developer and cyber security specialist) – please note though that they are only available to Sponsors who can satisfy the new ‘qualifying company’ criteria. A qualifying company employs between 20-250 employees, is not more than 25% owned by a larger UK company and has not been established in the UK for the purpose of supplying services exclusively to a single company in the UK. Each qualifying company will be able to sponsor up to 10 Tier 2 (General) migrants holding these positions. The roles also require migrants to have five or more years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team
  • Entry clearance issuance dates will be better aligned with migrants start dates of employment in the UK – in effect they can be post-dated in line with the applicant’s stated date of travel to the UK, provided this is no later than 14 days after the start date of employment given by the migrant’s Sponsor. This change will give more flexibility to migrants and will hopefully reduce the incidence of migrants having to re-apply for entry clearance if they have been unable to travel to the UK within the short window provided by the 30 day travel visa
  • Maintenance rules for family members are being amended so that where the Tier 2 migrant is exempt from having to show maintenance with extension applications, their dependants will also be exempt, even if applying at a later date
  • Unpaid sabbaticals are now limited to four weeks in duration – the timescale is currently 30 days
  • Tier 2 provisions relating to maternity, paternity and adoption leave will now also cover shared parental leave – this will be relevant where there is a salary reduction below the appropriate rate for the job, as stated in the government’s  Standard Occupation Codes, for the duration of the leave only
  • Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) additional requirements for Tier 2 (General) migrants – these include the requirement for Sponsors to certify in writing that the migrant is still required for the employment in question for the foreseeable future and that the salary payable will continue for the foreseeable future. This will impact those migrants who have been issued with a redundancy notice for example, or where the migrant has given notice of termination of employment. Sponsors will therefore need to be aware of these new requirements when an application for ILR is submitted and a decision has been made regarding the end date of a migrant’s employment

US extends passport fast-track scheme to UK citizens

This development will be extremely useful for British nationals who travel frequently to the US for business. Similar to the UK Registered Traveller Scheme, frequent travellers to the US can apply to join the ‘global entry system’ from 3 December 2015. Travellers will first have to apply to the Home Office and pay a £42 processing fee. If the applicant passes UK vetting, they will receive an access code to use when applying for the Global Entry scheme, which costs £65 and is valid for five years. This new scheme is intended to speed up their passage through US immigration control. According to the US, the new process cuts down passport control waiting times by about 70%.

Further roll out of criminal record checks

As mentioned in our alert on 23 July 2015, the Home Office is currently reviewing the further roll out of the requirement for migrants to obtain police clearance certificates. As this may be rolled out to Tier 2 migrants early in 2016, Sponsors should factor this in when planning for migrants to transfer to the UK early next year.