The main changes, which affect Tier 2 sponsors and workers, are as follows:

Introduction of a five-year Tier 2 visa: In a move back to the previous Work Permit scheme, from 6 April 2014, sponsors will be able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a worker under either the Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Long Term Staff sub-categories for up to five years.

Sponsors should still consider their long-term business plans, and they should not automatically opt for the five-year visa as the cost of these, which is double the usual fee, may be prohibitive for workers/employers.

Sponsors are reminded that, as part of their duties, they must ensure that they monitor sponsored workers, keep the correct records for each individual, and carry out the necessary reports to the Home Office for change of circumstances throughout the period of sponsorship.

If important changes, such as changes to role, title, or salary, are left unreported, this will not only affect the individual’s stay in the UK and their chances of applying for further or indefinite leave to remain, it may also result in action being taken against the sponsor licence.

Minimum salary thresholds: The minimum Tier 2 salary thresholds are set to increase from 6 April 2014. However, Tier 2 applicants assigned with a CoS prior to 6 April can continue to rely on the current salary thresholds. Click here for a summary table listing these increases.

In addition to meeting the minimum salary threshold for the relevant category, the salary also needs to be at or above the minimum appropriate rate as set out in the relevant Standard Occupational Classification ('SOC') Code for the role. See below for changes to the SOC 2010 Codes.

Changes to Standard Occupational Classification Codes: The minimum rate for some SOC Codes is set to change, and these will apply to CoSs assigned on or after 6 April. From an initial review, we note that salary levels for some roles have increased by 0.9%, but some have also been decreased. Sponsors must ensure that they have reviewed the up-to-date SOC 2010 Code table before assigning a CoS or before carrying out a test of the Resident Labour Market. The minimum appropriate rates also affect those applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (even if they are under the previous Work Permit scheme).

Please click here to view the changes to the SOC 2010 Codes.

There is also an added flexibility with SOC Codes for Tier 2 workers, who will be applying to extend their stay in the UK after 6 April 2014 and will be continuing the same employment with the same sponsor.

However, sponsors should seek legal advice before attempting to assign a CoS, which involves a change in SOC Codes, in order to ensure the switch is permitted.

Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) minimum salary thresholds:Tier 2 sponsors, who are looking to sponsor migrants under Tier 2 (General), should ensure that they take into account the new increased minimum thresholds when determining whether they need to advertise with JobCentre Plus or whether an exemption from the RLMT applies.

Click here for a table which sets out the increases to the salary thresholds applicable to advertising campaigns from 6 April 2014.

An employer, who commenced its RLMT prior to 6 April 2014, will be able to rely on the previous salary thresholds.

High earners: Roles paying at least £152,100, which will increase to £153,500 from 6 April 2014, will continue to benefit from:

  • being exempt from the RLMT under Tier 2 (General);
  • being exempt from the cooling-off period under both Tier 2 (General) and (ICT); and
  • permitting a Tier 2 (ICT) Long Term Staff Migrant to extend his or her stay up to nine years rather than the usual five-year limit.

Maintenance requirement: The amount required to satisfy the maintenance requirement will increase and apply to applications made from 1 July 2014. For full details of the increased levels, please click here.

Minimum salary for settlement in the UK: In April 2011, the government announced minimum salary levels for Tier 2 (General) and (Sportsperson) Migrants applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK from 6 April 2016.

An amount of £35,800 has now determined for those making a settlement application from 6 April 2019.

Restricted CoS: Due to the above changes to the SOC Codes, the Home Office has changed the application deadlines for restricted CoSs made in April and May 2014.

Requests for a restricted CoS for the April panel will be open from 6 April to 16 April 2014, and they will be decided on 18 April.

Requests for the May panel will be open between 17 April and 5 May 2014, and they will be decided on 11 May as usual.

Therefore, sponsors who have just started to conduct the RLMT will be able to make an application for a restricted CoS within the April panel if a suitable resident worker is not found for the role.

Conclusion

The above is a summary of the announced changes and how it can generally affect sponsors and individuals. If you require specific advice on how the changes may affect you as either a sponsor or a migrant, please contact the immigration team.