Immigration Skills Charge now in force

Home Office changes to the Immigration Rules, introduced on 6 April 2017, included the controversial Immigration Skill Charge (“the Charge”).

The original proposals for the Charge were widely criticised. The Home Office stated that the Charge was ‘subject to approval by Government’, but media headlines indicated Parliament’s disapproval. However, the Home Office went ahead and implemented the Charge. It seems that other than slamming down the proposal, the Prime Minister and her Government found it too trivial for further attention.

Who is impacted by the Charge?

The Charge affects every business that sponsors a migrant worker under Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intracompany Transfer) visas. The sponsoring employer must pay an additional charge for each foreign worker they employ.

Exemptions

The Home Office allowed some exemptions. Those wishing to sponsor workers who are:

  • switching from a Tier 4 (Student) visa
  • a worker who has a Tier 2 (Intracompany Transfer) Graduate Trainee visa
  • a worker who will do a job with a PhD level standard occupational classification (SOC) code.
  • The Charge does not apply to dependants of sponsored workers.

How much is the Charge?

Small or charitable sponsors will pay £364 for the first 12 months for each assigned certificate of sponsorship. For each additional 6 months it will cost £182. So, for a worker who is sponsored by the same sponsor for five years (the longest period a worker can be sponsored), the employer will pay £1,820.

Medium or large sponsors will pay £1,000 for the first 12 months with £500 for each additional 6 months, with the total sum of £5,000 for the five years of sponsorship.

If the worker will be in the UK for over 6 months but less than a year, the sponsors must pay the charge for the full 12 months.

How is payment made?

The Charge is paid at the same time as the sponsor assigns a certificate of sponsorship via the Sponsorship Management System (‘SMS’).

The amount will be automatically calculated for the Sponsor, depending on the size of the business or organisation and the length of the assigned sponsorship certificate.

The Home Office does not accept payments by instalments, and the full charge must be paid immediately.

The Charge must be paid within 10 working days from assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship.

The sponsor will receive a full refund if the worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn; or if the application is successful, but the worker decides not to start the employment with the sponsor.

If the Home Office endorses the worker’s permit for a period shorter than the sponsor’s assigned Certificate of Sponsorship, or where the worker switches to another sponsor, the sponsor will receive a partial refund.

Conclusion

The Charge has no doubt been introduced to help with the Government’s stated objective to reduce net migration. It remains to be seen whether the Charge will be sufficient to deter an employer from sponsoring an overseas worker or instead, train a local worker.

A government spokesperson is reported as saying: “For too long there has been under-investment in training for UK workers but this government is committed to building home-grown skills and wants to encourage employers to do the same. The introduction of the immigration skills charge will help encourage employers to invest in training so that UK workers have the right skills to fill jobs.”