Business Immigration Law Changes Coming In Autumn 2016 and April 2017
Businesses who hold a Sponsor Licence and rely on foreign workers on Tier 2 (General) or Intra-Company Transfer) Visas (ICT Visa) should be aware that a raft of changes are being proposed for April 2017 and they will have a serious impact on business immigration.
To prepare your business for the changes it is imperative that you seek the best advice from an experienced Immigration solicitor well before the changes are implemented.
The background to the changes to business immigration law
Stemming from fears of significant overuse and in a bid to slash Immigration numbers, the UK authorities recently commissioned an independent review of the popular Tier 2 Immigration Route. The review, undertaken by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), was published on 19th January 2016, and contained recommendations for significant changes to the Tier 2 stream. This includes the Tier 2 (General) Visa, Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Visa and Tier 2 (ICT Graduate Trainee) Visa.
It is important to note that this MAC report only contains recommended changes. However, it is clear following analysis by some of the best Immigration lawyers in the UK that the British government has adopted most of the recommendations the MAC report made.
business immigration changes to come in during Autumn 2016
The following changes are due to come into force over Autumn:
Tier 2 (General) Visa changes
- The first of the two increases to the minimum salary threshold. Employers holding a Sponsor Licence and sponsoring a skilled worker must pay a minimum of £25,100 to an employee on a Tier 2 (General) Visa). Certain public sector occupations such as nurses, paramedics, and teachers will be exempt from these changes until July 2019.
- Although nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List, employers hiring nursing applicants from outside the EEA will need to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to ensure the prospective employee qualifies for a Tier 2 (General) visa.
Tier 2 (ICT) Visa changes
- The Tier 2 (ICT Skills-Transfer) Visa route will be closed.
- The minimum salary threshold for a Tier 2 (ICT Short-Term Staff) Visa will be raised to £30,000 per annum.
- The minimum annual salary threshold for Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee migrants will be reduced to £23,000 and the number of places available to companies under this route will increase to 20. If the graduate trainee visa holder is offered a permanent place in the company after their training period has ended, they can switch visas and their applications will be given additional weight.
- Tier 2 (ICT) migrants will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Your Immigration solicitor will be able to give you the best legal advice on these changes which are due to be implemented over the next few months.
Changes to Business Immigration Visas that may come into force in April 2017
The main changes to the Tier 2 (General) Visa and Tier 2 (ICT) Visa that were recommended in the MAC report are due to be implemented from April 2017. It is important to note that Immigration law is fluid, so the below information may change prior to Spring next year. Your Immigration lawyer will be able to provide you with the best Immigration law advice regarding the changes closer to the time.
- From April 2017 Sponsor Licence holders will have to pay a fee of £1,000 for every Tier 2 Visa holder, on an annual basis. This will be known as the Immigration Skills Charge, and is likely to be collected on the assigning of Certificates of Sponsorship. Small businesses and charities will only have to pay £364 per person, per year. PhD roles, Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainees Visas and Tier 4 to Tier 2 Visa switchers will be exempt from the charge.
- The second stage of the Tier 2 (General) Visa salary threshold increase will be brought in, raising the minimum salary Sponsor Licence holders will have to pay to non-EEA employees to £30,000.
- The Tier 2 (ICT – Short Term Staff) Visa will be closed to new applications. This will mean will mean that all Tier 2 (ICT) migrants (except those entering under the Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee route) will have to be paid a minimum annual salary of £41,500.
- The minimum annual salary for Tier 2 (ICT) Visa route applicants who are ‘high earners’ will reduce from £155,300 to £120,000.
- “High Value” businesses relocating to the UK will be granted exemption from labour market testing requirements and given priority in Tier 2 (General) Visa monthly quota limitations.
The effect of these changes on employers recruiting foreign workers
Many of these changes will have a significant impact on companies who rely on Tier 2 migrants to provide the skills and talent they need to grow their business. Some Immigration solicitors may advise that the best course of action is to try and recoup the cost of the Immigration Skills Charge from the Tier 2 (General) Visa holder, in the same way employers often recoup training costs from employees. The minimum salary threshold increases for both Tier 2 (General) Visas and ICT Visas will impact Sponsor Licence holders significantly, particularly in the IT and consulting industries, that currently transfer large numbers of individuals to the UK for short periods under the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term route.
Only time will tell if these changes will affect the attractiveness of the UK market as both a place to do business and invest, and a destination for the world’s brightest and most talented workers to come and advance their careers.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We can assist you with all aspects of Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 (General) and ICT Visa applications.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123