Earlier this year, the UK Government announced its intention to open a 'Global Business Mobility' visa route in spring 2022. It's anticipated this will consolidate numerous existing visas, such as the Intra Company Transfer visa, the Intra Company Graduate Trainee visa and the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa into a single route. It will also make changes to these visa routes and cover certain international arrangements not currently covered by the immigration rules.
The Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa route is likely to take into account the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommended changes to the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa and other 'global mobility issues' which we outline below, although it's not yet known which changes will be implemented.
What was the purpose of the MAC report?
The MAC is the expert body that advises the UK Government on immigration policy. In September 2020, the Home Office commissioned the MAC to produce a report for the following reasons:
- To ensure that in its domestic immigration rules, the UK fully implements certain commitments it has made in free trade agreements in relation to intra company transferees. These commitments arise because the UK is a member of the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which allows the entry and temporary stay of people for business purposes and certain intra company transfers. In addition, the UK has made additional commitments in specific Free Trade Agreements, and;
- To assist the Home Office with the design of its future intended mobility offering to enable overseas businesses to send teams of workers to establish a branch or subsidiary or to undertake a secondment in relation to a high value contract for goods or services.
What were the key recommendations?
The MAC carried out a call for evidence on how the current ICT visa arrangements were working. In October 2021, they reported on the following key recommendations:
- The skills threshold for this route should remain the same as it is currently at RQF level 6 or above (which is broadly equivalent to degree level or above).
- The salary threshold should be set at the average for occupations at RQF6 or above (currently £42,400) with the 'going rate' salary thresholds being set in the same way as they are now.
- All salary thresholds should be reviewed annually to ensure that they are up to date.
- Graduate trainee salary thresholds (which is likely to form part of the new GBM route) should be aligned with the skilled worker route.
- ICT high earner rules should remain in place (these permit someone who earns £73,900 or above to qualify even if they don’t have 12 months service overseas with a group company). In addition, they can stay for nine years out of a ten-year visa. This salary threshold would then be reviewed annually along with other salary thresholds.
- Time spent in the intra company transfer route should count towards settlement.
The MAC also recommended that no changes should be made to:
- the rules on which allowances can be counted to meet the salary thresholds, but they have recommended that data is collected to check compliance with the current rules.
- the English language requirement (there is no requirement in this route).
- the rules on switching, which means that ICT applicants will continue to be able to switch into the skilled worker route if the recommendations are followed.
Recommendations for other business mobility issues
- The MAC considered whether there ought to be more flexibility for an overseas business to send a team of people to the UK to set up a subsidiary of an overseas business. There is a route under the current immigration rules which allows one individual to come to the UK (not a team) for this purpose (Representative of an Overseas Business Route) and this is likely to form part of the new GBM route. The MAC has recommended that the default should be that one individual can come to the UK and that most of the current rules for that route should continue to apply. However, the MAC has recommended that this visa should be limited to a two-year period (rather than five). The individual could then switch into an alternative visa route.
- For businesses that wish to send a team of employees to the UK, the MAC suggests an alternative approach. This is to trial a 'Team Subsidiary' route over a two-year period to collect data on the impact of this route.
- The MAC also considered the issue of whether more scope should be permitted for secondments to an overseas business which is not part of the same group of companies. The MAC has suggested a model whereby each case could be considered on its merits and that a route is created for this purpose.
Is the UK Government likely to follow the recommendations of the report?
The UK Government will now report on what changes will be implemented. As mentioned, the UK Government has already announced its plans to consolidate ICT visas into a new broader GBM route alongside other visas likely to be beneficial to businesses looking to set up business in the UK.
Further information can be found here, but we expect more detail over the coming months in advance of the route's anticipated introduction in spring of 2022. We will provide a further update once more information is available.
What further changes can employers expect to intra company transfer arrangements?
The MAC report notes that as part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK has committed to exempt EU ICT workers from the Immigration Skills Charge from no later than 1 January 2023. The immigration skills charge is a cost of up to £1,000 per year of the visa (less for certain small employers or charities). Therefore, employers may wish to factor that into decisions about which route to opt for in the future. Intra Company transfers could become lower in cost than the Skilled Worker route for employers who are sponsoring European nationals.