In our April update we provided a summary of the immigration rule changes to the Tier 2 category affecting sponsors and migrants. We have now examined the effect of these changes in practice:

  1. Options for Tier 2 migrants moving into other immigration categories

The 6 April changes opened up more options for existing Tier 2 migrants wishing to move into another immigration category. In particular, Tier 2 (ICT) migrants can now switch into the Tier 1 (exceptional talent) route, allowing those who are proven to be the brightest and the best an opportunity to apply for leave to remain in the UK under a category that can lead to settlement.

  1. 'Cooling off' period removed for Tier 2 migrants earning £152,100 or more per annum

The lifting of this restriction allows those who will be earning £152,100 or more to return to the UK as Tier 2 migrants, before the one year cooling off period has been spent. It also opens an option for existing Tier 2 (ICT) migrants who came into the UK after April 2010 to consider their long term plans for settling in the UK. The current rules limit high earners (ie those earning in excess of £152,100) in the Tier 2 (ICT) category to a maximum stay in the UK of nine years with no option to settle in the UK.  As the cooling off period has been lifted for Tier 2 high earners, those migrants could now potentially leave the UK and re-apply immediately for entry clearance as a Tier 2 (general) migrant, thus kick starting the five year continuous stay to qualify for settlement in that sub-category. This represents a good opportunity, especially for migrants who have come to the UK with family.

  1.  Clarification on unpaid leave

The rules have been changed to prohibit a Tier 2 or Tier 5 migrant from being absent from work without pay for one month or more in total during any calendar year, unless for maternity, paternity, adoption or sickness reasons. Sponsors as well as migrants have a duty to ensure that conditions such as this one are met.

  1.   Graduate opportunities

The revised SOC codes have created new opportunities for graduates to obtain work in the UK via the introduction of the 'new entrant' salary threshold.  This lowered threshold applies to graduates switching from Tier 4 into Tier 2 under the post-study provisions; graduates recruited via milkround, graduates sponsored in the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Trainee route; and any workers making an initial application who are aged 25 or under on the date they apply.  The Government has recognised that there was a gap that needed to be filled, especially after the closure of the Tier 1 (PSW) route, and we are optimistic that this change will allow sponsors to employ those with real potential at an appropriate salary level for new graduates.