In November 2016 the proposed autumn changes to Tier 2 of the points-based system were finally introduced, pursuant to the latest statement of changes in the Immigration Rules. This followed the government's announcement in March 2016 that it would implement some of the recommendations proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee in its report published in January 2016. This update highlights the key changes affecting the Tier 2 category.
The genuineness test was first introduced for Tier 2 applications in April 2014. This test permits UK Visas and Immigration caseworkers to assess whether there is a genuine vacancy for the sponsored role. Applicants can be asked to attend an interview or produce additional documents to allay any genuineness concerns.
The November 2016 changes have reduced the response times to deal with these requests. Applicants now have 10 business days to respond to any requests for further information.
This change is part of the government's approach to resident labour market testing generally. Additional and more stringent criteria may be introduced in 2017 as part of further reforms to Tier 2 (General).
The key changes to the Tier 2 (General) route are as follows:
- The minimum salary threshold has increased from £20,800 to £25,000 a year. A transition period has been put in place, so the new salary increase will not affect migrants who were already sponsored in the category before November 24 2016. The following professions are exempt from meeting the new salary threshold until July 2019:
- medical radiographers;
- paramedics; and
- secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin.
- UK graduates overseas will now be allocated additional points during the consideration process for restricted certificate of sponsorship allocations. However, this is only where the employer has conducted a genuine 'milk round' exercise and the graduates meet the 'post-study work' provisions, but are applying for entry clearance rather than leave to remain in the United Kingdom.
- Graduate trainees will be permitted to change their occupation within the programme without completing a change of employment application (fresh Tier 2 process) or having their employer conduct the resident labour market test.
- The minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) short-term staff has increased from £24,800 to £30,000 a year.
- The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Skills Transfer category is now closed to new applicants.
- The minimum salary threshold for the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Graduate Trainee category has reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 a year. The cap on this category has been increased from five to 20 graduate trainees per year for each licensed employer.
Employers should ensure that their employees' salary packages continue to meet the minimum thresholds as stated on the relevant code of practice for the occupation.
The remaining recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee are due to be implemented in April 2017. The changes will include:
- further increases to the minimum salary thresholds;
- closure of the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Short-term Staff category; and
- implementation of a mandatory immigration skills charge for all Tier 2 migrants, currently set at £1,000 per year and a reduced rate of £364 per year for small and charitable sponsors.
The immigration skills charge in particular will have a significant impact on cost projections for Tier 2 sponsors.
For further information on this topic please contact Lucy Garrett at Magrath LLP by telephone (+44 20 7495 3003) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Magrath LLP website can be accessed at www.magrath.co.uk.
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