The Government is once again making significant changes to the Points Based Immigration System. The changes will affect the Tier 2 (Intra company transfers) category.

A lot of the changes will affect employers that employ nationals from non-EU countries, when offering completely new positions or when transferring employees from overseas branches.

From 6 April 2011 a further sub-division of the Established Staff sub-category was introduced, splitting it into Short Term Staff (STS) and Long Term Staff (LTS). There are both new time limitations and salary requirements that affect the Established Staff sub-categories. In addition employers must confirm that the job is at graduate level.

Short Term Staff - (STS)

Staff being brought in on the Established Short Term category will only be granted a maximum of 12 months from the date of grant of the visa. The key features are:

  • 12 months' experience required with a sponsor overseas
  • Minimum annual salary of £24,000
  • Approved for a maximum period of 12 months (with no extension possible)
  • No return to the UK as a Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) for 12 months after the visa/leave expires (12 month cooling off period) unless returning as an LTS.

The cooling off period applies only to employees returning as a Tier 2 (Intra company transfer). It does not apply to former LTS or STS employees returning to the UK as a Tier 2 (General) migrant if the sponsor undertakes a resident labour market test as required.

Long Term Staff - (LTS)

Staff being brought in under this category can be granted up to a maximum of three years' leave from the date of grant of the visa and a further 2 years leave by way of extension in-country. The minimum salary to gain points for Long Term is £40,000.

The key features under the LTS are:

  • 12 months' experience required with sponsor overseas
  • Minimum annual salary of £40,000
  • Approved for any period up to a maximum period of five years (three years plus two year extension)
  • No return to the UK as Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) for 12 months after visa/leave expires (12 month cooling off period) which will affect business planning
  • Cannot qualify for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain)

There are, of course, variations to the period of leave that can be granted on extensions to those employees already in the UK and who have been granted leave prior to 6 April 2011. When an employee obtained their current leave will determine how long they can get an extension for or if they are able to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Graduate trainee/skills transfer

The period of leave still stands at a maximum of 12 months for this category and, as before, an employee cannot re-enter the UK after 12 months from the date of expiry of the visa. The current changes simply re-emphasise these points.

Change of employment

On change of employment the new guidance retains the provision that where there is a reduction in salary or allowances to those shown on the Certificates of Sponsorship a change of employment application must be made (this means a new Certificate of Sponsorship must be issued and passport submitted).

As a general rule, an employee that came into the UK under the Points Based System on a Tier 2 Intra company transfer prior to 6 April 2011 can extend their visa up to a maximum of five years. However, they will not be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Employees that came into the UK prior to the Points Based System being introduced in 2009 and who have held a work permit (even if they have subsequently had an extension under the Points Based System), will be able to make further extensions and apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

However, it is advisable that each employee's circumstances are reviewed individually. There are varying criteria which may affect individuals' visas and their capacity to further extend or obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain.