1. Overseas criminal record certificates

Tier 2 (General) workers sponsored in the education, health and social care sectors will need to provide a Criminal Record Certificate for themselves and any adult dependants as part of their applications. Click here for a list of the relevant Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) codes.

A certificate will be required from any country where the individual has lived for 12 months or more in the last 10 years. For details of how to obtain such a certificate, please click here.

Certificates will also be required from partners applying from overseas, on or after 6 April 2017, who wish to join an existing Tier 2 (General) sponsored worker under one of the specified SOC codes.

Sponsors should ensure that they plan ahead as processing times for certificates in different countries may vary. Where it is not possible to obtain such a certificate, the individual will need to provide an explanation as part of their application.

2. Immigration Skills Charge

The Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) previously announced in March last year will apply to Certificates of Sponsorship assigned on or after 6 April 2017.

The charge is payable by sponsors when they assign the Certificate of Sponsorship and is £1,000 per skilled worker per year for medium/large sponsors or £364 for small and charitable sponsors.

According to the draft regulations, the following are exempt from the ISC:

  • those sponsored under PhD level SOC codes;
  • Intra-Company Transfer graduate trainees;
  • those switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 in the UK;
  • those extending their leave under Tier 2;
  • those applying for entry clearance for or less than six months.

Please note the above is still in draft and so it is not yet clear if this will be in the final version. We will provide clarification as soon as the final regulations are published.

The skills charge was debated in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords recently, where it was highlighted that:

"The implications of Brexit mean that the context in which the Government introduced the charges and the Migration Advisory Committee put forward its recommendations has utterly changed. That is not an argument for rejecting the regulations, but it is an argument for saying that we have to look substantially more closely at the impact that Brexit will have on our ability to have skilled workers who, by the time the charge has come fully into effect, may include skilled workers from the EU, of which we will no longer be a part."

The comments made by Gordon Marsden MP raise an important point as many sectors, for example tech, rely on skilled workers from the EU where domestic skills are not available and going down the route of sponsor licensing is not feasible, particularly for smaller companies.

Questions were also raised in relation to the review of the charge and how refunds will be processed, should a sponsored worker leave employment early.

The amount of money collected from the skills charge will be reviewed after one year, the explanatory statement is however silent on whether the impact on employers will be reviewed.

On a practical note, and as payment can only be made by debit/credit card, sponsors are being asked to liaise with their bank or credit card provider to ensure that they will be able to cover the ISC fee.

3. Immigration Health Surcharge extended to Intra-Company Transfer route

By way of reminder, the Immigration Health Surcharge is paid by non-EEA nationals who apply to come to the UK to work, study or join family for a period of more than six months or who are extending their stay in these categories. The charge also applies to dependants and is £200 per person per year.

From 6 April 2017, the charge will also extend to those applying under the previously exempt Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) category and any family members joining them.

4. Other changes to Tier 2 applications

Salary changes

  • The Tier 2 (General) minimum salary threshold will increase from £25,000 to £30,000 for experienced workers. Some jobs in the health and education sectors will be exempt until 1 July 2019.
  • The Tier 2 (General) high earner threshold will increase from £155,300 to £159,600.
  • The Tier 2 (ICT) high-earners’ salary threshold will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. These high earners can stay in the route for up to nine years, rather than the usual five years. As is the case now, they will not be permitted to settle in the UK.
  • The SOC salary rates in the codes of practice have been updated. Therefore, from 6 April 2017, please check the rate before assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • What can and can’t be included as an allowance in the salary package calculation has been clarified.
  • By way of reminder: to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain on or after 6 April 2022, the salary must be at least £37,900.

Intra-Company Transfer changes

  • The Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Short Term Staff category will be closed.
  • The requirement for 12 months’ prior employment with the overseas entity will be removed for those paid a salary of £73,900 or above.

Changes to support inward investment in the UK

The Statement of Changes has also provided more details regarding inward investment projects. A waiver for the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and an exemption from the Tier 2 (General) limit will be introduced to support the relocation of high value businesses to the UK or a significant new inward investment project. The relocation or inward investment must involve new capital expenditure of £27 million or the creation of at least 21 new UK jobs

Shortage occupation list changes

  • Secondary school teachers in combined science, computer science and Mandarin are being added to the shortage occupation list.
  • Secondary school teachers in chemistry are being removed from the list.