On 6 April 2017 the Government introduced changes to the Immigration Rules for skilled workers including a controversial Immigration Skills Charge.
The main concern for employers will be the cost involved in bringing staff to the UK from outside the EU. There are also concerns as to what changes will be made to the existing immigration system when the UK leaves the EU which is expected to be in March 2019.
Tier 2 salary levels
- The salary threshold for experienced hires in Tier 2 will increase to a minimum of £30,000. Anyone sponsored for an initial period of more than 3 years will be considered an experienced worker
- Minimum salary levels have increased across the board by several thousand pounds for most roles in the SOC codes
Tier 2 (General)
- The high earner threshold for Tier 2 (General) has increased from £155,300 to £159,600
- Roles must be advertised with Universal Jobmatch (the government recruitment site) unless the role pays at least £73,900
- Tier 2 (General) migrants who work in healthcare and social care (and their adult dependants) will now need to provide an overseas criminal record certificate for any country they have lived in for 12 months (continuously or cumulatively) in the last 10 years.
- New provision for an unrestricted sponsorship and no resident labour market test where a high value business is relocating or a significant inward investment project, where the sponsor is a newly-registered (within the last 3 years) branch or subsidiary of an overseas business and the investment involves new capital expenditure of £27 million or the creation of at least 21 new UK jobs. Sponsors in such cases will be exempt from carrying out a Resident Labour Market Test and from the requirement to assign a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship under the Tier 2 (General) limit.
Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)
- The Tier 2 ICT short term category route is now closed with no transitional arrangements.
- ICT high earners – the minimum salary has been reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. A Tier 2 (ICT) migrant earning this sum will be entitled to extend their stay in the UK to a maximum of 9 years.
- No need for 1 year’s prior employment with the sponsor or linked entity for ICT applicants earning over £73,900
- Immigration health surcharge now payable by Tier 2 (ICT) migrants. This is £200 for each year of the visa.
Immigration Skills Charge
- This new charge applies to both Tier 2 ICT and Tier 2 General
- The charge will be £1,000 per skilled worker per year or £364 per skilled worker per year for small and charitable sponsors.
- The Home Office guidance prohibits sponsors from passing this charge on to their sponsored worker
- Tier 4 (student) migrants switching to Tier 2 (General), PhD level jobs and ICT Graduate trainees will be exempt from the charge.
- The charge will not apply to dependants.
- Smaller businesses and charities (including universities) will pay a reduced charge of £364 per skilled worker per year.
The main concern for employers will be the cost increase brought about by these changes. As the short term ICT route has been removed, employers transferring staff from offices outside the EU will now need to pay a minimum salary of £41,500 for a long term ICT visa (or even high if the role in the SOC code specifies a higher salary).
The Immigration Skills Charge will mean that either a transfer or new hire to the business from outside the EU may now cost the employer an extra £5,000 (for a 5 year visa).
The cost of hiring an employee from India with a spouse and two children will cost somewhere in the region of £14,000 in Government charges and visa fees.
With our impeding Brexit the Government is seeking to improve relations with Commonwealth countries and the message from some of those countries including India is that there needs to be a better visa deal for their citizens. India as one of the fastest growing economies in the world makes a strong case and it will be interesting to see what effect Brexit has on Tier 2.