A series of changes under the Immigration Act, 2016 will substantially increase the cost of applications for Tier 2 Visas by employers with Tier 2 Sponsorship Licences who allocate Tier 2 Certificates of Sponsorship(CoS) on or after 6 April 2017. The much maligned Immigration Skills Charge was among the UK Visa changes.
The new charge, announced in March 2016, is due to come into effect on 6 April 2017. The Immigration Skills Charge is being put in place with a view to ‘incentivising employers to invest in training British staff’, according to a Home Office statement.
In order to reduce Britain’s so-called reliance on non-EU workers, Tier 2 visa applications will include a mandatory £1,000 fee for medium and large businesses per sponsored employee per year of sponsorship. However, for smaller businesses as well as educational, charitable and other similar institutions, a concession will be granted reducing the Immigration Skills Charge to £364; the charge is not applicable to a worker’s dependents.
No Immigration Skills Charge for PhD level occupations on UK Tier 2 Visas
Additionally, employees recruited into PhD-level occupations will not be subject to the Immigration Skills Charge. Meanwhile, any students in the UK on a Tier 4 visa who are able to switch to a Tier 2 visa (General) under immigration rules are also exempt from the fee.
Initially, it was not disclosed by the Home Office as to whether those applying to extend their stay in Britain would be subject to the Immigration Skills Charge. However, the Government department has since updated its Tier 2 sponsorship guidance.
The updated changes specify that the charge will not apply to non-EEA nationals, sponsored via the Tier 2 immigration route before 6 April 2017 and who apply from within the UK to extend their Tier 2 stay with either the same or a different sponsor.
The Home Office has confirmed that sponsors are required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge at the time of allocating a Tier 2 CoS and is payable in advance for the total period of time covered by the certificate of sponsorship.
More UK Visa changes
It’s understood that further changes from April 2017 will make the cost of sponsoring many overseas employees even more expensive. For instance, the minimum salary rate payable to ‘experienced workers’ within the Tier 2 (General) immigration category will be increased to £30,000 per annum.
Limited exemptions exist for this rule, which mainly applies to ‘public service occupations’ including medical radiographers; nurses; paramedics and secondary education teaching professionals in maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin.
Statement of changes
In a widely circulated email sent out by Home Office Communications, a summary of the key changes to the Tier 2 immigration rules included:
Tier 2 General Visa Overseas criminal record certificates
The Government is set to extend the requirement to provide a criminal record certificate to Tier 2 (General) applicants coming to work in the education, health and social care sectors and to their adult dependents.
A certificate will be required for applicants sponsored in these Standard Occupation Classification codes. Applicants in these codes outside of Tier 2 (General) route, such as Intra-company Transfers are not affected.
Certificates will also be required from partners applying from overseas, on or after 6 April 2017 who want to join an existing Tier 2 (General) visa holder working in one of these sectors.
Immigration Skills Charge
As previously announced in March 2016, an Immigration Skills Charge of £1000 per skilled worker per year is being introduced for employers in Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) routes. The charge is £364 for small and charitable sponsors.
There are exemptions for PhD-level occupations, Intra-company Transfer Graduate Trainees and those switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 in the UK. Income raised from the charge will be used to address skills gaps in the workforce. The Government has announced that further guidance will be published on 6 April.
Immigration Health Surcharge for Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visas
Introduced in 2015, the surcharge is paid by non-EEA nationals who apply to come to the UK to work, study or join the family for a period of more than 6 months. It is also paid by non-EEA nationals who are already in the UK and apply to extend their stay.
From 6 April 2017 those applying for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) will be required to pay a surcharge of £200 per person per year. Dependents pay around the same amount as the main applicant.
Other changes to Tier 2 Visa applications
- Secondary school teachers in combined science, computer science and Mandarin are being added to the Shortage Occupation List. Secondary school teachers in chemistry are being removed from the list.
- Increasing the minimum salary that sponsors can offer a Tier 2 (General) worker from £25,000 to £30,000 for experienced workers. Some jobs in the health and education sectors are exempt until 1 July 2019.
- Closing the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Short Term Staff category, meaning that all ICT workers, except graduate trainees, must qualify under a single route with a salary threshold of £41,500.
- Reducing the high-earners’ salary for the Intra-company Transfer Long Term Staff category from £155,300 to £120,000. These high earners can stay in the route for up to nine years, rather than the usual five years.
- Removing the requirement for Intra-company Transfer workers to have at least one year’s experience working for the sponsor’s linked entity overseas, for applicants paid £73,900 or above.
- Introducing a waiver for the Resident Labour Market Test and an exemption from the Tier 2 (General) limit for posts which support the relocation of a high-value business to the UK or a significant new inward investment project.
- Annual updates to the occupational salary rates in the codes of practice.
- Changes to provide greater clarity and consistency as to which types of allowance will be considered against the salary requirements.
The Government has announced that it will be making changes to visit visas, Tier 4 applications as well as minor changes and clarifications to the Immigration Rules relating to family and private life-based visa applications. Watch this space.