Writing for Business Advice, ‘shara Pledger, a solicitor at immigration law specialists?Latitude Law, provides small business owners with an overview ofthe key recent changes to immigration rules.
The government has introduced changes to the requirements for businesses employing skilled Tier 2 workers in the UK. The first round of changes took effect on 24 November, 2016. This will be followed by a second round of changes, currently scheduled for April 2017.
What immigration rules changed in November 2016
From 24 November 2016, experienced workers (as opposed to new entrants) have a minimum salary requirement raised from 20, 800 to 25, 000 per year, or the salary quoted in the relevant Code of Practice (whichever is higher).
This applies to new applicants to the Tier 2 route only those joining the route from overseas, or switching from an alternative immigration category.
The government intends this change to make Tier 2 more exclusive, focused on truly highly-skilled applicants doing high-value jobs for their employers. Despite this, in the short-term most HR teams will not find themselves significantly impacted, as most experienced Tier 2 applicants are already required to be paid 25, 000 per year year due to the levels set in the Codes of Practice.
What immigration rules will change in April 2017
The changes due to be introduced in April 2017 will be more wide-reaching, applying to all employees issued with a new Class of Service (CoS)for Tier 2. At this point, the salary requirement will rise to 30, 000 per year, although this again is scheduled to apply to experienced staff members only.
Intra-company transfer (ICT)
Some of the biggest changes apply to the ICT route. The government is phasing out the skills transfer category entirely, meaning that businesses will no longer be able to send workers to the UK to train them, or send workers from overseas to train their UK staff.
That sub-category is already closed to new applicants (from November 2016). The Home Office suggests that the business visit route may be suitable for such trips, although the visit category is notorious for its lack of certainty.
April 2017 will most likely see the short-term sub-category closed in the same way, streamlining ICT to allow for either graduate trainees, or more senior staff members.
The graduate trainee sub-category saw some improvements last month, with the salary threshold dropped to 23, 000, and the number of available places per business increased from five to 20. This encourages and allows large ICT sponsors to bring new graduate talent to the UK, to gain experience here and to benefit the UK.
The closure of the short-term sub-category will have the effect of setting one minimum salary requirement for non-graduate transfers, 41, 500 per year. This is designed to help businesses move specialists and senior managers more easily.
Other changes currently anticipated to take effect in April 2017 apply to high earners (permitting relocation to the UK for between fiveand nine years where the minimum salary paid is 120, 000 per year, a reduction from 155, 300), and the removal of the requirement for an ICT long-term employee to have been employed with the business for at least one year (but only for employees earning at least 73, 900 per year).
Other things to remember regarding immigration rules
Nurses remain on the Shortage Occupations List, but employers will need to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test.
Tier 2 (General) migrants remain liable to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge at a cost of 200 per year for the employee and all dependents. Tier 2 ICT are currently exempt from this requirement, but that is expected to change and the introduction of the charge is overdue (was anticipated in Autumn 2016).
Finally, April 2017 will most likely see the introduction of the Immigration Skills Charge a levy applied to each business for each CoS they issue. That levy is anticipated to be 1000 per CoS for mediumor large businesses, with a lower rate of 364 applicable to small businesses and charities.
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