Stop Press! Immigration Changes Announced

6 mins

Posted on 31 Mar 2016

The government has now produced its long awaited response to the Tier 2 (Skilled Workers) review undertaken by the Migration Advisory Committee (the full ministerial statement can be accessed here). Key changes are to be phased in during Autumn 2016 and April 2017.

Whilst some of the changes are in our view negative to business, such as the increase to the salary thresholds and the introduction of a skills levy, there are some positives to be found. The government has indicated that it supports senior hire and high value business moves to the UK and has refrained from implementing some of the more controversial MAC recommendations.

A quick guide to the main changes is listed below:

Skills Levy: This new charge will be levied on Tier 2 employers at a cost of £1,000 per Tier 2 worker per year. A reduced rate of £364 will apply to small and charitable sponsors. PhD level occupations, Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainees and those switching from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 visa will be exempt. The Government intends to have completed implementation of these measures by April 2017. Ultimately this is a ‘tax’ on businesses wishing to employ migration from outside the EEA in a bid to limit numbers.

Tier 2 General changes: The minimum salary threshold will be increased to £30,000 for experienced workers. This change will be phased in, with the minimum threshold increased to £25,000 in autumn 2016 and to £30,000 in April 2017. The minimum threshold for ‘new entrants’ will remain at £20,800 which is a positive development.

Exemptions from new Tier 2 salary thresholds: Nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin are exempt from the new salary threshold. Where an occupation is not on the Shortage Occupation List, extra weighting will be given to these occupations in the monthly allocation of the Tier 2 (General) limit in a bid to recognise the importance of these roles to society.

Tier 2 visas for Nurses: Nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List, but employers will need to carry out a resident labour market test before recruiting a non-EEA nurse. Nurses will therefore become a unique category in a change that is largely positive but which introduces further complexity to the system.

Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2 General visas: Employers will continue to be able to recruit non-EEA graduates of UK universities without carrying out the resident labour market test (i.e. advertising). This is a positive announcement as it was feared that this concession to graduates of UK Universities was to end. Graduates will also be able to switch roles within a company once they have secured a permanent job at the end of their training programme. This change will take effect from autumn 2016.

High Value business- resident labour market test exempt: From April 2017, the Home Office’s panel will attach extra weight within the Tier 2 (General) limit where the allocation of places is associated with the relocation of a high-value business to the UK or, potentially, supports an inward investment. The government will also waive the resident labour market test for these applications. This is a development which is to be welcomed but we await the detail of how it will be implemented in practice.

Changes to the Tier 2 ICT route: April 2017 will see the closure of the Tier 2 ICT Short Term route. All intra-company transferees will then be required to qualify under a single visa category with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500. This is a negative change in our view which will limit the ability of some companies to move employees around an international network.

However, the Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainee category will remain in place with the current salary threshold being reduced from £24,800 to £23,000, and the number of trainees that an employer may bring to the UK will increase from five trainees to 20.

In order to assist businesses there will be a transitional period until April 2017 to allow those affected to plan for these changes. In autumn 2016, the Skills Transfer category will close to new applications and there will be an increase in the minimum salary threshold for the Tier 2 ICT Short Term category to £30,000. From April 2017, the Government will then close the Short Term category to new applications. The minimum salary threshold for intra-company transferees working in the UK for between five and nine years will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. However the 12 months' previous employment requirement will also be removed for all applications where the Tier 2 ICT worker is paid over £73,900. These changes will take effect from April 2017.

Immigration Health Surcharge: From autumn 2016, all intra-company transferees will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Tier 2 Dependants- right to work: There will be no change to the work rights of dependants of Tier 2 migrants. This is to be welcomed by business.

Date of application and the monthly Restricted COS quota: Earlier this month the Home Office also clarified that an entry clearance and an in-country visa application must be filed within 3 months of the COS ‘work start date’. 

Further there are now changes to the monthly RCOS allocations with the monthly availability varying from month to month. There will be less COS availability per month from September 2016 onwards.

Our Forthcoming Seminars: We now await the publication of the rule and guidance changes. As ever the devil is in the detail and we will bring you our further analysis in due course. 

Our forthcoming immigration seminars in May will look at the changes to Tier 2 in more detail among other issues including the implications of Brexit. 

The seminars will be held on Wednesday 11 May 2016 in London and Thursday 12 May 2016 in Reading. Invitations will be sent out in the coming days but please contact us sooner if you wish to reserve a place.

If you require advice on any of the above please you can contact the Business Immigration team either by email at or by telephone on 0207 329 9090 and ask to speak with Anita de Atouguia

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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