In April we saw the introduction of the Government’s much heralded immigration skills charge. The charge is in essence a penalty fee payable by Tier 2 sponsors for relying on non-resident rather than local workers.

The idea is that the funds collected will be channelled back to training the workforce in the UK. The amount paid varies according to the size of the company with a large company paying £1,000 per year of a migrant’s visa and a small company paying £364. For sponsors it represents a further financial burden in accessing the skilled workforce they require.

Further amendments were also made to the Immigration Rules:

  • Changes to the minimum salary thresholds under Tier 2 General: The minimum salary threshold for ‘experienced’ hires under Tier 2 General is now £30,000 and the high earner threshold is now £159,600.
  • The Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer route for short term assignments of up to 12 months was closed. Tier 2 ICT now only allows for visa applications within the long term and graduate trainee categories.
  • The immigration health surcharge has been extended to Tier 2 ICT migrants and their dependants.
  • Applicants applying for a Tier 2 ICT visa who earn in excess of £73,900 now do not need to show 12 months employment with the sponsor overseas before applying for their visa and those Tier 2 ICT visa holders who earn in excess of £120,000 can now remain in the UK for up to 9 years.
  • Individuals applying to work in the health, social or educational sectors will need to have criminal records checks before they apply for their Tier 2 General visas. There has been word that this could be rolled out to other sectors so watch this space!