As is commonly the case, the Home Office has announced various rule changes set to come in from October 2019. The statement of changes runs to some 102 pages but the key changes to be aware of for Tier 2 include:
- As anticipated in our previous alert of 2 August 2019, the government has confirmed the expansion of the shortage occupation list from 6 October 2019. This is good news for employers who use Tier 2 as it means more applications, including for architects and IT roles such as web design and development professionals, IT business analysts, programmers and software development professionals, can be submitted without the need for prior advertisements as part of the Resident Labour Market Test;
- PhD level occupations will be exempt from the monthly quota from 6 October 2019;
- Where a Tier 2 worker in a PhD level occupation has absences from the UK for research linked to their employment, those absences would not count in an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application from 1 October 2019;
- Changes have been made so that from 1 October 2019, Tier 2 workers who are absent from work due to sickness, statutory parental leave, assisting in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis or engaging in legal strike action may still apply for ILR even if those absences cause their salary to fall below the required threshold; and
- Clarification has been given that from 1 October 2019 Tier 4 (General) students have the right to work for the Tier 2 sponsor when they switch into the Tier 2 (General) category within 3 months of completion of their degree course.
If an application for leave has been made before those dates, it will be decided in accordance with the rules in force the day before.
Separately, you may have noticed in the press the current government’s announcement of its intention to bring back to life a previously deleted category called Post Study Work. As with the previous category, the intention would be that where a student completes their UK degree, they can apply for leave valid for 2 years in order to ‘bridge the gap’ between study and work. This category used to fit into Tier 1 of the Points Based System and was a very useful tool for employers to employ graduates without first sponsoring them under Tier 2. The current government has indicated the Post Study Work category would be available to graduates who start degree level courses from next year onwards.