The Autumn changes to the UK Immigration Rules have finally been announced and will, for the most part, be introduced on 24 November 2016. The official announcement confirms that the changes promised by the Government earlier this year will be applied with only a few variations.
The statement of changes implements the first of two phases of changes to Tier 2 of the Points-Based System. Recommendations arising out of the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) Review into Tier 2 Migration were published in January 2016, following a 7 month process of consultation and assessment.
On 24 March 2016, the Government announced its response to the MAC's review of Tier 2 policy, detailing which MAC recommendations it was minded to apply.
The main changes to be introduced can be broken down into the sub-categories of Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer):
Tier 2 (General)
- Increased salary threshold for experienced workers of £25,000 (but not for new entrants where the threshold is held at £20,800). Exemptions will apply for nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin (to end in July 2019).
- As a transitional arrangement, the £25,000 threshold will not apply to workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) before 24 November 2016, if they apply to extend their stay in the same category. The Government intends to increase the threshold to £30,000 in April 2017. There will be no such transitional arrangement for workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) between 24 November 2016 and April 2017. They will need to satisfy the £30,000 threshold in any future application.
- Overseas graduate hires will be more heavily weighted within the Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) monthly allocation system.
- Applicants sponsored in graduate training programmes may change occupation within the programme or at the end of the programme without their sponsor needing to carry out a further Resident Labour Market Test or for them to make a new application.
- Nurses are retained on the Shortage Occupation List, however, a Resident Labour Market Test must be carried out before a nurse is assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship.
- Changes have been made to the authorised practice of in-country switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 to permit this only where the applicant studied at a UK recognised body or body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution.
Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)
- The salary for short term ICT applicants has been increased to £30,000 for new applicants. A transitional arrangement applies for those already in the UK under the short term route.
- The closure of the Skills Transfer sub-category to new applicants.
- For the Graduate Trainee sub-category, the salary threshold has been reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 and the number of places a sponsor can use has been increased from 5 to 20 per year.
- The 28-day grace period for overstayers is to be abolished and any application for further leave to remain by an overstayer will be refused unless ‘good cause’ is given and it is made within 14 days of the applicant’s leave expiring.