Slightly later than anticipated, new Rules were laid before Parliament yesterday including changes to the Tier 2 system, the majority of which are to be implemented later this month. It’s important that businesses are aware of these changes as they will, in some instances, remove flexibility of bringing non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers into the UK. It’s not just Brexit that is bringing about changes in the UK immigration system. 

Closure of ICT (Skills Transfer) and minimum salary changes

There are a number of significant changes to be implemented on 24 November, which include

1. The closure of the ICT (Skills Transfer) category.

This has always been a useful category for employers looking to send existing employees to the UK to either upskill local workers or be upskilled themselves. This could be a real loss to the business community.   

2. Changes to minimum salary thresholds.

The minimum salary for Tier 2 (General) migrants will  increase from £20,800 to £25,000 per annum. Exemptions will apply for “new entrants” and certain occupations (such as nurses). 

The minimum salary for Short Term Intra-company Transfer (ICT) will also increase from £24,800 to £30,000.

The minimum salary threshold for Long-Term ICT applications remains the same for now.

Immigration Health Surcharge (“IHS”)

Whilst the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) was anticipated to be extended to ICT migrants in this round of changes, a date has yet to be announced for this to be implemented. The IHS charge still therefore only applies to Tier 2 General migrants and their dependants, at a rate of £200 per person, per annum, for the time being.

Some good news

It’s not all doom and gloom!  There is some positive news for graduate recruitment: 

  • From 24 November, sponsors can transfer up to 20 employees under the graduate trainee category (up from the current five) and the minimum annual salary will be reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 per year. 
  • From 24 November, graduates who complete a graduate training scheme in the UK will be able to switch into a permanent post scheme role without having to apply for a new visa, even if the role falls into a new SOC code. 
  • Graduates who complete a degree in the UK will be weighted more heavily in the monthly cap consideration for Tier 2 (General) visas. This will increase their chances of receiving a visa if they leave the UK before applying for Tier 2 sponsorship. This only applies, however, where the individual was recruited via a milkround.   
What’s to come in April next year?
It’s a mixture of good and bad.
The good …
  • In the ICT category, the annual salary threshold for employees wishing to extend their ICT visa beyond five years will decrease from £155,300 to £120,000.
  • Senior employees, (those earning £73,900 per annum or more), will be exempt from the requirement to have 12 months’ overseas experience with the same employer and will be able to qualify immediately for the Long-Term ICT visa. 
  • High-value businesses wanting to relocate to the UK will find that any associated Tier 2 (General) applications will not be subject to the Resident Labour Market Test and will receive extra weighting in the monthly allocation.
And moving quickly to the not so positive …
  • It is anticipated the Short Term ICT visa category will close.
  • The minimum annual salary threshold for initial Tier 2 (General) migrants will rise from £25,000 to £30,000, although it will remain subject to minimum salary levels as indicated under the standard occupational codes.
  • Businesses will be subject to a new Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per sponsored worker per year. 
  • Employers will only be able to rely on milkround recruitment that ended up to four years prior to the assigning of the certificate of sponsorship being assigned, provided the applicant was offered the job within 6 months of the end of the recruitment exercise.
Whilst these changes were largely expected, it remains to be seen how they will affect UK business and the immigration landscape. In the meantime, if you have any questions our expert immigration specialists will be happy to assist and you can contact us here.