On 24th March 2016, British Immigration minister – James Brokenshire announced reforms in Tier 2 Visa processing in a written parliamentary statement. The reforms were aimed at cutting down on the number of Tier 2 Visas being issued to Employers. The minster further stated that employers in Britain have chosen to hire talent from overseas than develop certain roles which the country is short of. The recent reforms were introduced after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), published a report titled – Review of Tier 2 on 19th January 2016; and a subsequent report titled – Partial Review of the Shortage Occupation List: Review of Nursing, which was published on 24th March 2016. The Immigration Minister further added that most of MAC’s recommendations would be implemented by next year.
More than half of the workforce outside the EU region is hired by employers via the Tier 2 visa system. Back in 2014, the number of successful Tier 2 Visa applications was close to 52,478. Here’s how the latest reforms will affect employers:
1. New Surcharge on Immigration Skills
Starting April of 2017, employers will have to pay a surcharge of £1000 for every Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) on a yearly basis. For charities and smaller organizations however, the fee will be only £364 per CoS, applicable every year. Skill levels like PhD, Graduate trainees, employees who are on an Intra Company Transfer (ICT Tier 2 Visa) and students making a switching to Tier 2 Visa are exempt from paying this fee. The new surcharge has been introduced to ensure that employers prefer training domestic workforce than hire overseas workforce.
2. Raise in Minimum Salary for Tier 2 (General) Visas
As recommended by MAC, minimum salary for employees on a Tier 2 Visa would be raised from £20,800 (For select occupations) to £30,000. The changes would be implemented in a phased manner starting from an initial increase of £25,000 in the coming autumn season, reaching the final limit of £30,000 by April 2017.
To circumvent the hiring challenges faced by certain public sector organizations in hiring for positions like secondary school teachers in subjects like computer science, physics, mathematics, chemistry or Mandarin; or Paramedics Nurses, Radiographers; the department has exempted the raise in minimum salary until July 2019. This will give an opportunity for organizations to develop workforce with these skills in the domestic market. New entrants, which include recent graduates and workers less than 25 years of age, will also have a minimum salary threshold of £20,800 until further notice.
4. Graduates from Non-EU Zone to Get Priority
A Non-EU citizen, studying in the UK and seeking a Visa transfer from Tier 4 Student to Tier 2 (General Visa) category, will be exempted from the increase in Minimum salary under the new entrant exemption. The Non-EU graduates from the UK will also be exempt from taking the Resident Labour Market Test.
5. Preference for Positions in Public Sector and Migrant Graduates
Starting autumn 2016, migrant graduates sponsored for Tier 2 (General) Visa by businesses will be given a higher weightage under this visa scheme and opt for a role change with the same employer, if they are hired as permanent resource by the end of their training session. Weightage will also be given to roles available in the public sector that have been exempted from the hike in minimum salary till July 2019. (Includes skills not mentioned under the Shortage Occupation List).
6. More Weightage for High Value Business
Starting April 2017, Roles with high-value businesses supporting investments in the UK will be given higher weightage for a Tier 2 General Visa. More details on the specific terms associated with this rule are yet to be released. Also, workers under this category will not be required to take the Resident Labour Market Test before getting hired.
7. Nursing staff to remain under SOL
As per the recommendations of the MAC report, nursing staff will remain under the Shortage Occupation List. However, employers will have to ensure that the staffs hired from Non-EU regions pass the Resident Labour Market Test exam.
8. Streamlining Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Visas
Currently, multinational companies can transfer employees to their offices in the UK on an unrestricted Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa (ICT), which is divided into the following four categories:
* Short term staff – Up to 12 months stay
* Graduate trainees – Up to 12 months stay
* Skills transfer – Up to 6 months stay
* Long term staff – Up to 12 months stay
The minimum and maximum salary bandwidth for all the visa categories ranges from £24,800 to £41,500 (for long-term transfers). The new reform will streamline and consolidate this visa scheme into a single ICT Visa category with a minimum salary level of £41, 5000. This will be introduced in a phased manner with the Immigration Department closing down on accepting new applications from April 2017, for Skills transfer and Short Term Category Visas. The minimum salary level for the skill transfer visa will be revised to £30,000.
9. New Graduates Benefit from Tier 2 ICT Visa Reforms
Graduate trainees will benefit from the new Tier 2 ICT reforms. Although the minimum salary for such a visa will decrease from £24,800 to £23,000, the number of trainees an employer might transfer to UK would increase from 5 to 20.
10. Further Reforms to the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visas
Currently an employee can stay back in the UK, for a period of five years on a Tier 2 ICT Long Term visa, which can be extended to nine years if the employee is paid an additional £155,300 per annum. This amount has been slashed to £120,000 as per the new reforms, where the employee is paid over
and above £73,900; and need not necessarily have to work for the company for a period of 12 months before being transferred to the location at UK.
11. Work Rights of Dependents Remain
Oddly enough, the MAC was asked by the government to present the benefits of cancelling work rights of dependents of the visa holders but the MAC report advised against implementing such policies.
Interested in applying for a Tier 2 General Visa? At Y-Axis, our experienced process consultants can help you with the documentation and processing of your Visa Applications.