Changes Planned for the Intra Company Transfer Visa Route
Business immigration solicitors take a look at changes to the intra company transfer visa
In 2020 an independent advisory body, The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), was commissioned by the Home Office to make recommendations for reform of the intra company transfer visa . The MAC has now reported and the recommendations will be of interest to all those international businesses with a UK base, or those who plan to set up a UK operation, as well as to Sponsorship Licence lawyers. The intra company transfer visa route allows companies to transfer existing overseas based employees to work in the UK branch or subsidiary of the international overseas based company.
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The recommended changes to the intra company transfer visa
The Migration Advisory Committee has recommended:
- An increase to the minimum salary threshold for the intra company transfer visa – MAC has suggested that the salary threshold is increased to £42,400. The report also recommends annual reviews of minimum salary thresholds. MAC suggests that the current minimum salary threshold is working well as the intra company transfer visa is attracting senior employees to the UK who are of benefit to the UK economy. There is no suggested change to the higher income threshold.
- A decrease to the minimum salary threshold for graduate trainee intra company transfer visa applicants – the recommended salary is £20,480. This decrease is to tie in with the new entrant minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa.
- Review of use of allowances to meet the minimum salary threshold – at present an employer can calculate the minimum salary threshold by including some allowances paid to the employee. MAC is suggesting that there is increased monitoring of the use of allowances to help meet the minimum salary threshold to prevent abuse of the system.
- The English language requirement – at present those applying for the intra company transfer visa do not have to meet the English language requirement. MAC does not recommend any changes to this exemption. This is welcomed by Sponsorship Licence lawyers as a requirement to sit an English language test would deter some intra company transfer visa applicants and would make the application process more complicated and time consuming.
- Immigration skills charge - to exempt employers transferring EU workers on intra company transfer visas from being liable to pay the immigration skills charge. This is planned to be introduced by the 1 January 2023. This is not really a recommendation of MAC as it is required under the terms of the UK -EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. This may appear odd to some businesses as it gives EU workers an advantage over non-EU workers in circumstances where Brexit and the new UK points-based immigration system promised to treat EU and non-EU skilled migrant workers the same. Sponsorship Licence lawyers recognise that any reduction in the requirement for UK employers to have to pay the immigration skills charge will be welcome news.
- The intra company transfer visa as a route to UK settlement – currently time spent on the intra company transfer visa does not count towards the five-year residence requirement for an indefinite leave to remain It is proposed that time in the UK on the intra company transfer visa can lead to UK settlement. This means an intra company transfer visa holder would not need to switch to a skilled worker visa or other visa in order to be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
- The sole representative visa and team route – if an international business wants to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK then under the sole representative visa route, they can send one employee to set up the UK base. The company cannot recruit any other overseas workers to assist the sole representative until the sole representative has set up the UK branch of the business and secured a Home Office issued sponsor licence to sponsor overseas workers ( this could be on either the skilled worker visa or the intra company transfer visa) . MAC recommends that the duration of the sole representative visa is reduced to two years and there is no ability for an applicant to apply to the Home Office to extend the sole representative visa. However, to make the sole representative visa more effective it is suggested that there is a trial of a team route to help the sole representative set up the UK branch or subsidiary. This is in recognition that it can take the skills of more than one overseas employee to successfully set up an arm of an international company in the UK. This team route would be available for a sole representative applicant and four others. The sole representative would need to meet the sole representative visa eligibility criteria and the four other applicants would need to meet the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa.
The take out from the MAC report on the intra company transfer visa route
Sponsorship Licence lawyers and business immigration solicitors have broadly welcomed the MAC report on the intra company transfer visa route and in particular the trialling of the team approach to the sole representative visa. That is because the current ‘go it alone’ policy of one sole representative makes it harder for international companies to select one overseas based employee with all the skills necessary to set up a UK branch or subsidiary. As it is in the interests of the UK economy to attract international businesses to set up a base in the UK any easing of restrictions to allow this to happen is to be welcomed.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers are being asked when the MAC recommendations on the intra company transfer visa will come into force. At present it is a case of watch this space as they are recommendations only.
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