6 April 2017 marked the start of the new visa year for UK sponsor licence holders. As has become routine, the Government published its latest round of changes to the Immigration Rules on the same day. These include the introduction of some potentially far reaching changes about which sponsors should be aware.

April and May is a good time for you to take stock of your company’s immigration needs and ensure you are ready for the year ahead.

1. The April Statement of Changes

The Home Office introduced long awaited changes to the immigration rules on 6 April. Some are welcomed by businesses. For example in the Tier 2 intracompany transfer category there was a reduction of the minimum salary threshold to £120,000 for high earners, and the removal of the requirement for 12 months prior service where employees earn over £73,900. In the Tier 2 General category there is a new exemption from advertising rules and restricted CoS limits for significant new inward investment projects. There are also some less welcome changes including the increase of the minimum salary for experienced workers in Tier 2 General to £30,000 and the expansion of the health surcharge to ICT applicants. For more information see our previous article.

2. The new Tier 2 Skills Charge

The Home Office has rolled out the annual skills levy (£1,000 or £364 for small businesses and charities) to all employers intending to sponsor new Tier 2 applications from 6 April. The money will be used to address training for skills gaps in the UK. For more information see our previous article.

3. Audits and compliance visits

The Home Office is undertaking increasing audit visits to ensure sponsor compliance with right to work checks and the myriad immigration rules. With stiffer penalties applicable to non-compliant employers under the Immigration Act 2016, it is important for all UK companies to regularly review files, records and processes to check their compliance is up to date. See our top tips.

4. Planning for Brexit

Now that Article 50 has been triggered and the formal Brexit negotiations are under way, the future continuation of the rights of EEA remains an area of interest to employees and employers alike. Whilst there is currently no change to the rights of EEA nationals to live and work in the UK, future changes are likely to be far reaching. Now is a good time to assess the position of your UK workforce and consider what steps you may wish to take to support them. You can read more on our recommendations for this area.