On 16 March 2017 the Home Office announced a package of changes
These mainly affect applications using Certificates of Sponsorship assigned by sponsors on or after 6 April 2017, but some will also affect other visa application routes.
The main changes are:
Immigration Skills Charge
An Immigration Skills Charge of £1000 per skilled worker per year is being introduced for employers in the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) routes. A lower charge of £364 will apply for small and charitable sponsors. There will be exemptions for PhD-level occupations, Intra-company Transfer Graduate Trainees and those switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 in the UK. Income raised from the charge will reportedly be used to address skills gaps in the workforce. As with other sponsorship and visa fees, the charge is payable by debit or credit card only.
Immigration Health Surcharge
As a reminder, the Immigration Health Surcharge was introduced in 2015 and is paid by non-EEA nationals who apply to come to the UK to work, study or join family for a period of more than 6 months and allows a migrant worker to access the public health service. It is also paid by non-EEA nationals who are already in the UK and apply to extend their stay. It is payable irrespective of whether the individual uses the NHS during the period of their stay.
From 6 April 2017, those applying for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) will also be required to pay a surcharge of £200 per person per year (they were previously exempt). Dependents pay around the same amount as the main applicant.
Overseas criminal record certificates
The requirement to provide a criminal record certificate is being extended to include Tier 2 (General) applicants coming to work in the education, health and social care sectors and to their adult dependents.
Certificates will be required:
- for applicants sponsored in these Standard Occupation Classification codes. However applicants in these codes outside of the Tier 2 (General) route, such as Intra-company Transfers are not affected; and
- from partners applying from overseas, on or after 6 April 2017 who want to join an existing Tier 2 (General) visa holder working in one of these sectors.
Other changes to Tier 2 applications
- The minimum salary that sponsors can offer a Tier 2 (General) worker is increasing from £25,000 to £30,000 for experienced workers. Some jobs in the health and education sectors are exempt until 1 July 2019.
- The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Short Term Staff category is being closed, meaning that all ICT workers, except graduate trainees, must qualify under a single route with a salary threshold of £41,500.
- The high-earners’ annual salary for the Intra-company Transfer Long Term Staff category is being reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. These high earners can stay in the route for up to nine years, rather than the usual five years.
- The requirement for Intra-company Transfer workers to have at least one year’s experience working for the sponsor’s group company overseas, for applicants paid £73,900 or above, is being removed.
- A waiver is being introduced for the Resident Labour Market Test (the mandatory procedural step to advertise a vacancy before it can be offered to a Tier 2 (General) sponsored migrant worker) and an exemption from the Tier 2 (General) limit for posts which support the relocation of a high value business to the UK or a significant new inward investment project.
- Secondary school teachers in combined science, computer science and Mandarin are being added to the Shortage Occupation List. Secondary school teachers in chemistry are being removed from the list.
- There will be annual updates to the occupational salary rates in the codes of practice.
The Home Office are also making changes to visit visas, Tier 4 applications as well as minor changes and clarifications to the Immigration Rules relating to family and private life.
Contact a specialist immigration solicitor
If you hold a sponsor licence, wish to employ/sponsor a migrant worker, or might be affected by any of the other changes that are outlined above, please contact a member of our immigration team or contact us online for further guidance and advice.