The Government has recently announced that it will implement a number of important changes to the Tier 2 regime, the migration route for those undertaking skilled work in the UK. The reforms are based on recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) following its review earlier this year. The MAC was tasked with striking a balance between reducing reliance on non- EEA skilled workers whilst also supporting growth and productivity.
The majority of the MAC’s changes were adopted by the Government but importantly some of the more protectionist measures were rejected.
Nevertheless, the changes are likely to have a significant impact on employers and will certainly make recruiting from abroad more costly.
The new rules will be implemented in two stages, the first in Autumn 2016 and the second in April 2017, allowing a transitional period for affected migrants to plan for the changes.
Changes to Tier 2 (General)
- Currently Tier 2 (General) imposes minimum salary thresholds if an employer wishes to recruit experienced workers. These thresholds will increase to £25,000 in Autumn 2016 and to £30,000 in April 2017. Certain roles which face recruitment challenges such as nurses, paramedics and mathematics teachers will be exempt from the increase. The new entrant threshold will remain at £20,800.
- From Autumn 2016, applications for restricted certificates of sponsorship from those who have graduated from UK universities will be given priority. Graduates will also be able to switch roles within a company once they have secured a permanent role at the end of their training programme.
- From April 2017, applications for restricted certificates of sponsorship where there is a relocation of high value business to the UK or where inward investment is supported, will be prioritised and will also be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (“RLMT”)
- Nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List but employers will need to carry out the RLMT before recruiting a non-EEA nurse.
Changes to Tier 2 (ICT)
This route (currently consisting of four sub categories) will be streamlined and simplified to create a one category route with an increased annual salary threshold.
- In Autumn 2016, the salary threshold for the ICT Short Term route will be increased to £30,000 and the ICT Skills Transfer route will be abolished.
- In April 2017, the ICT Short Term route will be abolished, after which all Tier 2 ICT migrants (except Graduate Trainees) will have a salary threshold of £41,500.
- The ICT Graduate Trainee minimum salary threshold will be reduced in Autumn 2016 from £24,800 to £23,000 per year and the number of places available will be increased from 5 to 20 per year.
- From Autumn 2016, Tier 2 (ICT) migrants will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
- From April 2017, long term migrants who earn over £73,900 will be exempt from the requirement of having 12 months experience with their overseas company before they can apply for ICT sponsorship.
- Employers will be relieved to hear that the MAC’s initial recommendation for the qualifying service period for Long Term ICT to be increased from 12 to 24 months has not been implemented.
- From April 2017, for those long term migrants who wish to stay in the UK between 5 and 9 years, the salary threshold will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000.
- There are plans to change the amount and type of allowances which can count towards the minimum salary threshold. A review is currently taking place and we await further details.
Across Both Tier 2 Categories
Introduction of the Immigration Skills Charge (“ISC”)
From April 2017, an ISC of £1,000 per year will be payable by Tier 2 employers for every person they recruit from outside the EU. For small employers and charitable sponsors, a reduced rate of £365 per person, per year will apply. There will be exemptions for those in PHD roles, Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainees and Tier 4 to Tier 2 switchers.
The Government is now consulting on the specific details of the proposed changes and is encouraging employers to participate in the consultation. More details will be published in due course. However, employers who currently sponsor (or are planning to sponsor) non-EEA migrants under the Tier 2 system should start reviewing their recruitment, HR and mobility policies to ascertain what impact the proposed changes will have on their strategy.
Boyes Turner’s Business Immigration Group will be looking at these changes in more detail in a free seminar at our offices on 24 May 2016. Please register at our website. We hope you can join us.
For advice on how the changes to Tier 2 may affect your business or to find out more about how the business immigration team can help you, please contact the team on [email protected] or ring 0118 952 72984.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.