EAfter much anticipation, yesterday on the 16th March, the Home Office released a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. These changes will predominantly affect those applications using a Certificate of Sponsorship once the changes are implemented on the 6th April 2017.

Below, we have highlighted some of the main changes that are about to take place.

Immigration Skills Charge

  • As of the 6th April 2017, an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) of £364 will apply to small and charitable organisations in all Tier 2 categories. All other sponsors with workers in Tier 2 categories will need to pay £1000 per worker per annum.
  • Some exemptions to the ISC will apply for Intra-company Transfer Graduate Trainees, PhD level roles and those individuals switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 within the United Kingdom.

Overseas Criminal Record Certificates

  • The requirement to present an overseas criminal record certificate will be extended to Tier 2 (General) applicants working in health and social care as well as education. This will also apply to the applicant’s adult dependant(s).
  • Some of the occupation classification codes include 2213 – Pharmacists, 2442 Social Workers and 2312 – Further education teaching professionals.
  • Partners wishing to join their Tier 2 (General) partner in the UK will also need to present a criminal record certificate if they are applying from outside of the UK and their partner works in any of the mentioned sectors. Please refer to the Standard Occupation Classification codes for more information.

Immigration Health Surcharge

  • The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) has already been introduced as of 2015 and applies to those non-EEA individuals who wish to work, study or join their family in the UK.
  • Currently, those individuals applying under the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) category, are exempt from paying the IHS. However, as of 6th April 2017, the Intra-company Transfer category will no longer be exempt from the IHS. Applicants will be required to pay a surcharge of £200 per individual per annum. Dependants will also need to pay this.

Further Changes to the Tier 2 Category

  • High-earners’ salary requirement for the Intra-company Transfer Long Term Staff category will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. High earners will be able to stay in the UK under this category for a maximum of nine years compared to the usual five years.
  • The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Short Term Staff category will be closed to streamline the process, thus, the salary threshold will be £41,500.
  • The minimum salary that sponsors are able to offer Tier 2 (General) experience workers will be increased from £25,000 to £30,000. There will be some exemptions to roles in the education and health sectors until 1st July 2019.
  • Teachers in secondary schools within mandarin and computer science will be added to the Shortage Occupation list.
  • Those individuals with a salary of at least £73,900 in the Intra-company Transfer category will not be required to have at least one year’s experience of working for the sponsor’s overseas entity.
  • A waiver will be introduced for the Resident Labour Market Test, as well as an exemption from the Tier 2 (General) limit for posts supporting the relocation of high value businesses to the UK.
  • There will be annual updates to the appropriate salary rates in the codes of practice.

Changes for Overstayers in the UK

  • The period of overstaying in the UK which is allowed prior to a re-entry ban will be reduced threefold from 90 days to 30. This marks a significant change for overstayers. Unless exclusions apply, any individual who has overstayed for more than 30 days will face a 12 month re-entry ban.

With all of these changes in mind, Migrate UK suggests that sponsors get their house in order prior to the implementation of the new rules or they could risk facing refusal. Sponsors must also ensure that they have the mechanisms in place to be able to pay for the extra charges come April. Of significant note is the news that the Immigration Skills Charge will need to be paid for by debit or credit card only.

The above changes suggest that the government is taking a hardline approach towards Tier 2, while still trying to appeal to shortage occupation and high-value workers. How effective this will be remains to be seen.