Today (24 March 2016), the government has announced its response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of Tier 2, and its separate review of whether nurses should remain on the Shortage Occupation List. Tier 2 is the main immigration route for non-EEA nationals seeking to work in the UK. The main proposed changes announced by the government include:
Across the board changes
- An Immigration Skills Charge will be introduced for both Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer).
- The Immigration Skills Charge will be levied on Tier 2 employers at a rate of £1,000 per Certificate of Sponsorship per year (i.e. per worker per migrant year).
- A reduced Immigration Skills Charge rate of £364 will apply to small sponsors and sponsors that are registered charities, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations.
- PhD level occupations, the Graduate Trainee sub-category of Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer), and those switching from Tier 4 student visas to Tier 2 visas will be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge.
Changes to Tier 2 (General)
- The Tier 2 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.
- The following occupations will be temporarily exempted from the increased Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers: nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin. The exemption will remain in place until July 2019.
- Additionally, where nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin are not on the Shortage Occupation List, extra weighting will be given to these occupations in the monthly allocation of the Tier 2 (General) limit until July 2019.
- Nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List, but sponsors will need to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test before recruiting a non-EEA nurse.
- Tier 4 students switching to a Tier 2 visa will not be subject to the annual limit on Tier 2 (General) places, which will remain at 20,700 Certificate of Sponsorships per year and their sponsoring employers will not have to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test.
- Extra weighting within the Tier 2 (General) limit will be given to businesses sponsoring overseas graduates, and graduates will be permitted to switch roles within a sponsor company once they have secured a permanent job at the end of their training programme. These changes will take effect from autumn 2016.
- From April 2017 there will be extra weighting 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. These applications will also be exempted from the Resident Labour Market Test.
Changes to Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)
- The current Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) provisions are being simplified by requiring all Intra-Company Transfer migrants to qualify under a single visa category with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500, save for the Graduate Trainee sub-category. There will be a transitional period up to April 2017 to allow UK employers to plan for the changes.
- The current salary threshold for the Graduate Trainee sub-category, will reduce from £24,800 to £23,000.
- The number of trainees that an employer may bring to the UK under the Graduate Trainee sub-category will increase from 5 to 20.
- From autumn 2016, the Skills Transfer sub-category will be closed to new applications.
- From autumn 2016, the minimum salary threshold for the Short Term Staff sub-category will increase to £30,000.
- From autumn 2016, all Intra-Company Transfer migrants will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (at present Intra-Company Transfer migrants are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge).
- From April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for Intra-Company Transfer migrants working in the UK for between 5 and 9 years will reduce from £155,300 to £120,000.
- From April 2017 for Intra-Company Transfer migrants working in the UK and receiving a salary over £73,900 will no longer need to have worked for the overseas entity for a minimum term of 12 months.