The UK Border Agency has issued a Statement of Intent relating to changes to the codes of practice for skilled migrant workers. The changes primarily affect Tier 2 of the Points Based System and are intended to ensure that the immigration system reflects salary rates that have risen in line with inflation as well as making the system more user friendly. The changes include the following:
- Changes to the lists of skilled occupations - The skill lists and levels of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes of practice are being updated. In addition, the new SOC code rates will be based on a working week of 39 hours per week (up from 37.5 hours). Transitional arrangements will apply to those who are already sponsored under Tier 2 in roles where the SOC code is changing, provided that the migrant is continuing employment in the same role and with the same sponsor.
Changes to salary requirements - The minimum appropriate rates for skilled workers in each occupation are being updated and the overall salary thresholds across Tier 2 will be increased in line with wage inflation. In particular, the following minimum salary thresholds will apply from 6 April 2013:
- Tier 2 (General) migrants - £20,300
- Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer – Long Term Staff) migrants - £40,600
- All other Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) migrants - £24,300
Sponsors will continue to have to pay sponsored migrants at the appropriate minimum salary threshold, or at the minimum appropriate rate specified in the relevant SOC code, whichever is the higher.
Note that if advertising is required, where a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) has been completed prior to 6 April 2013 and the salary threshold stated in the advertisement(s) is below the new minimum appropriate rate or salary threshold, sponsors will NOT be required to re-advertise at the new rate. However, if a certificate of sponsorship is assigned on or after 6 April 2013, the migrant must be paid in line with the new salary requirements.
Changes to the way the RLMT is conducted - The current lists of publications and websites where vacancies can be advertised will be replaced with simplified criteria for identifying suitable media. Tier 2 sponsors will continue to be able to advertise in newspapers, professional journals, and on websites. In addition, salary levels relating to how or whether the RLMT applies will increase as of 6 April 2013 as follows:
- Sponsors will not need to advertise in Jobcentre Plus or Jobcentre online for roles where the salary is at £71,000 or above per annum (an increase from the current £70,000 per annum minimum).
- Sponsors will be exempt from the need to advertise a role if the salary is at £152,100 or above per annum (an increase from the current £150,000 per annum minimum).
- Introduction of a definition of new entrant - Sponsors will be able to pay new entrant employees, in some cases, at a specified lower minimum appropriate rate than those considered to be experienced employees. New entrant employees will be defined as:
- Graduates switching from Tier 4 into Tier 2 under the post study provisions
- Graduate recruits where the employer has used a university ‘milkround’ to recruit the employee
- Those sponsored under the Intra Company Transfer Graduate Trainee route
- Anyone aged 25 or under at the date of their initial Tier 2 application
Anyone else (including those applying to extend their Tier 2 permission) will be classed as experienced employees and the higher minimum appropriate rate will apply.
- Transitional arrangements for unrestricted certificates of sponsorship - Any unrestricted certificates of sponsorship that have been created but not assigned prior to 6 April 2013 will need to be amended to reflect the new SOC codes and minimum salary levels will increase for any sponsored migrant. If an unrestricted certificate of sponsorship is assigned prior to 6 April 2013, a migrant may make a visa application on or after 6 April 2013 based on the current minimum salary levels.
- Transitional arrangements restricted certificates of sponsorship - Due to the above changes, the timetable for restricted certificates of sponsorship applications will be adjusted for the month of April 2013. Applications for April 2013 will be accepted from 6 April to 17 April and will be decided on 19 April 2013. Any restricted certificate of sponsorship obtained prior to 6 April 2013 must also be assigned prior to 6 April 2013 or the sponsor will ‘lose’ the certificate and a new application must be submitted.
- New settlement threshold for earnings for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) from 6 April 2018 - Applicants for ILR in the UK will need to meet a new earnings threshold of at least £35,500 to qualify for settlement on or after 6 April 2018.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the changes will take effect from 6 April 2013.