Good news for Tier 4 Students

Students

On the 24th March, the Home Office responded to the Migration Advisory Committee recommendations and it’s good news for students.

Tier 4 students switching into Tier 2 (General) will not be faced with a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) or subject to a cap on numbers. There is no doubt that we will not only see universities breathe a sigh of relief, but also the students themselves who already pay thousands of pounds per annum to study in the United Kingdom. The government also aims to keep the minimum threshold for new entrants to £20,800.

If many people awaiting the Home Office response to the MAC recommendations were not surprised enough, Tier 2 (General) applicants will not face immediate hikes in salary thresholds with minimum thresholds being phased in slowly between autumn of this year and April 2017. In autumn 2016, the minimum salary threshold will be £25,000, increasing to £30,000 in April 2017.

According to the Home Office, various education and health professionals will even be exempt from the higher threshold altogether until July 2019, a welcome break for numerous employers and applicants.

It is clear that the government is placing emphasis on the need for healthcare professionals who there is currently a shortage of. Nurses will continue to be on the Shortage Occupation List, however, employers will need to ensure that a RLMT is carried out prior to recruiting non-EEA nurses once the rules are implemented.

Tier 2 (ICT) will also face some changes in an attempt to streamline the process into a single visa category, requiring a minimum salary threshold of £41,500 – excluding graduate trainees.

Whilst it was predicted that an Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per applicant per annum would take effect as of the 6th April 2016, the Home Office have announced that this will be introduced in April 2017. There will also be a lower rate for small sponsors, at £364 per annum and an exemption for Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainees, PhD occupations, and Tier 4 students switching into Tier 2.

Migrate UK Managing Director, Jonathan Beech, says that “I’m sure that many people (including myself) have been taken by surprise to see that the Home Office will only implement a few of the MAC recommendations, giving sponsors and applicants a grace period to submit prior to April 2017, when we will see some of the largest changes introduced.”

ONS Release of Migration Statistics, February 2016

UK

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have just released their quarterly report of migration statistics. Here is a summary of our findings.

  • From the year ending September 2014, Immigration increased by 2000.
  • From the year ending September 2014, emigration was down 29,000.
  • In the year ending September 2015, net migration saw a decrease of 13,000, as opposed to the greatest level of 336,000 (released year ending June 2015).
  • Immigration of EU citizens in year ending September 2015 was 257,000, in comparison to 246,000 in year ending September 2014. This was not statistically significant, however, it is too early to tell whether there will be a flood of EU immigration closer to the time of the referendum in June. These next few months will become a very important watching period now that ‘BREXIT’ is very much on the agenda. We could see an increase in EEA nationals entering the UK as a result.
  • Despite the steady, statistically insignificant increase of EEA immigration, there has been a statistically significant increase in EU2 (Bulgaria and Romania) immigration, which was up 15,000 in year ending September 2015 compared to the previous year.
  • In year ending September 2015, out of the 45,000 EU2 citizens coming to the UK, roughly two thirds entered the UK with a certain job offer, which is reassuring from a point of view that the UK economy appears to be in good health. This may have been a concern for anti-EU supporters if the majority were job seekers.
  • Nonetheless, non-EU immigration saw a decrease from 289,000 to 273,000 between Septembers 2014-15.
  • Work visas granted to skilled non-EU (main applicants) only increased by 4% to 54,383. It is important that the government is still valuing shortage-skill non-EU immigration which is vital for many companies, particularly within sciences and technology.

Due to the rapidly changing landscape of current affairs, it would be interesting to see what the statistics are now since the release of the Migration Advisory Committee recommendations and announcement of an early referendum.

Australians and New Zealanders to be faced with Immigration Health Surcharge

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Today, the Home Office unexpectedly announced that the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), a mandatory payment for most non-EEA applicants entering the UK for more than 6 months, will also be extended to citizens of Australia and New Zealand as of April 6th 2016.

Nationals from Australia and New Zealand will be required to pay a surcharge of £200 per annum regardless of whether they are fresh applicants or extending their stay from within the UK.

With the introduction of the IHS in April 2015, the government declared that citizens of both Australia and New Zealand would be exempt from paying towards the NHS but in a turn of tides, this will no longer be the case.

The IHS has already raked in over £100 million, which the UK government says will contribute to public services.

Managing Director, Jonathan Beech says that “The government’s recent announcement hasn’t stated whether Tier 2 (ICT) applicants will be exempt from paying the IHS. This points towards the fact that the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations to introduce the IHS for Tier 2 (ICT) applicants seems to be likely.”

Applicants under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme, will face a £50 reduction in IHS payments, bringing their contribution down to the same total paid by students.

MAC Recommendations 2016

MACThe long-awaited Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommendations on the review of Tier 2 applications has just been released and here are some crucial changes that are likely to take place.

The MAC have advised that a limit is placed on all Tier 2 employment by introducing a ‘price’ model. This means minimum salaries for Tier 2 ICT and Tier 2 General applications are increasing but specific job category pricing are not recommended for change just yet. Other ‘price’ introductions include:

    1. An Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) the level of which needs to be determined by the Government but is recommended to be in the region of an extra £1000 per Tier 2 migrant per year to impact employer behaviour and encourage upskilling / recruitment from the local labour market; and
    2. Introducing the NHS Surcharge for ICT’s;
    3. Investigating whether current NI contributions and tax on migrant worker allowances are working in the interest of the UK.

Another suggested change includes Tier 2 ICT’s, who under the proposals, will need to have at least 2 years of company experience overseas before qualifying for this route (up from one year currently).

The MAC have recommended that a much more detailed job description is included for Tier 2 ICT applications including skill requirements, thus, having the potential to affect thousands of employers.

The MAC have suggested that a new Tier 2 ICT route is introduced for third-party contracting (this will affect the IT industry). Minimum earnings threshold will be raised to £41,500 for all ICT routes under this new category, which is seen as an effective proxy for specialist and senior managers.

The MAC wishes to recommend a more in-depth review of skills shortages within the IT industry going forwards and may recommend the use of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to the third-party contacting route and limiting the proportion of Tier 2 migrants to each organisation. This is a longer term view.

Tier 2 General route changes:

  1. The MAC have recommend temporary priority to lower paid public sector workers when current monthly quotas for Tier 2 General Restricted requests are hit;
  2. The MAC also recommend a Resident Labour Market Test – RLMT (advertising the vacancy for 28 days) for in-country switchers from other routes together with including them in an extended quota covering the whole of Tier 2 (General). Currently Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2 General in country are not subject to the RLMT.

For dependants of Tier 2 workers, there is no change recommended to current practice. They can continue to work.

Migrate UK comments that “businesses will now need to rethink their strategy for hiring Tier 2 employees beyond April 6th. We therefore recommend that any applications are submitted prior to April 6th, when the proposed changes are likely to take place. This could potentially save employers many thousands of pounds.”

New UK Immigration Fee Changes Announced

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Yesterday, on 11 January 2016, proposed changes to fees for UK visas, nationality, immigration and Premium Service applications, were announced by the government. The proposed changes will take place throughout 2016-17, with the majority of changes being fee increases rather than reductions.

Such fee changes will apply only after additional legislation is laid before Parliament, which is due to take place by April 2016.

The proposed changes will see visitor, settlement and nationality visa fee increases, however, Tier 2 Sponsor Licences and Certificates of Sponsorship remain unchanged. This aligns with the government’s targets to cut immigration figures without impacting the valuable, Tier 2 skilled workforce. Premium Services will also see increases, with applicants possibly having to decide whether they want to wait for a postal application.

Maximum levels will be set on fee upsurges for categories that the Home Office are able to charge over the coming 4 years, yet, it seems that there will be no increases to the maximum levels themselves.

Migrate UK comment that “the government wants UK Visas and Immigration to become a self-sufficient, self-funded service by 2020 in an attempt to decrease taxpayer contributions.”

2015, A Year In Immigration

CXZ1CeuUEAACnQZWhilst 2015 now feels like a distant memory and the majority of individuals are anticipating the major updates on the 6th April, we mustn’t forget some important announcements that took place in the latter half of 2015.

From the 19th November 2015 sponsors must keep references as evidence of an employee’s previous experience if they are appointed on the basis of this experience.

Another update to the Immigration rules in November requires Tier 2 and 5 authorising officers to be responsible for the activities of all SMS users, thus, they must have a system in place to check such activities.

Managing Director, Jonathan Beech, says that “I would recommend that as a minimum the authorising officer checks the certificates of sponsorship assigned to migrants on a monthly basis, to ensure that they are fulfilling their sponsorship duties”.

Employers must review the current version of the sponsor guidance to ensure that they are aware of any changes that may affect them, for example, they must have an employee who is a level 1 user, in order to ensure that they will be able to fulfil their sponsor duties. Employers must make sure that they are compliant with any requirements that have been introduced since their first licence approval.

ILR Residency Requirements Reshuffle for Tier 2

The latest Tier 2 policy guidance released this month makes it clear that an applicant’s time being spent between their visa being issued and entry into the UK will be counted as an absence, potentially affecting thousands of applicants who have been waiting for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for 5 years.

Customs

Applicants who do not check their absences thoroughly could be ‘caught out’ by the new rule which will be implemented on the 6th April 2016, possibly resulting in the need for a further extension which could cost hundreds of pounds and delay the ILR process.

Currently, individuals are entitled to 180 days of absence from the UK for each of the last 5 years to qualify for ILR. The 180 days is counted back from the date an application is made. The date an applicant’s visa was issued can be used as the start of the 5 years if that person entered the UK within 90 days of the visa issue date.

Managing Director, Jonathan Beech says that “Tier 2 applicants applying for ILR after the 6th April 2016 will need to exercise caution with their absences. It is advisable that anyone applying for ILR on or after this date, should count their absences before making any further travel plans”.

Halloween Friday legislation update…without the fright

Yesterday the government announced a number of new changes to the Immigration Rules, which will come into effect on or after 19th November of this year.

The Home Office have addressed various matters within Asylum, Family Life and Settlement legislation. Notably, regarding the latter, it is imperative that those relying on an English language qualification for ILR and Naturalisation take a ‘secure’ test, while the £35,000 minimum earnings threshold for Tier 2 Settlement applications is set to be introduced on 6th April 2016.

With regards to business immigration, there have been several amendments to the Points-Based System:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
    • The endorsement criteria used by Tech City UK has been modified in order to ‘better reflect the skills and experience of target applicants who are most likely to add value to the UK digital technology sector’.
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur
    • Confirmation of what supporting documents are eligible for illustrating continuous trading and demonstrating job creations when extending leave.
    • Additional eligibility criteria to test the genuineness of applications, focusing on any potential previous investments made in a UK business by applicants
  • Tiers 2 and 5
    • Four digital technology jobs and nurses have been added to the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List. Concerning the latter, there was widespread criticism of legislation preventing the recruitment of migrant nurses, at a time when the demand was outweighing the supply. Senior figures, such as NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens, were contributing factors to the Home Office fixing what was undoubtedly, a misjudgement.
    • An increase in annual allocations for places available under the Youth Mobility Scheme for 2016.

For further advice on any of the above, do not hesitate to contact the team

Students brace themselves for further changes this Winter

Back in July, we published an article citing changes to Tier 4 of the Point Based System. A number of these have already been introduced, however there are three further legislative amendments which ought to be brought to students’ and education providers’ attention. These come in force from 12th November 2015.

First of all, Tier 4 (General) students studying at colleges will not be able to extend their stay in Tier 4, neither will they be able to switch into any other category whilst in the UK. Only students at colleges that the Home Office have labelled as “embedded colleges offering pathway programmes” will be able to do so.

Second, dependants of Tier 4 migrants will be allowed to take part-time or full-time skilled work, but shall be prevented from taking a low or unskilled job. For those individuals who are in the process of preparing a Tier 4 application and have dependants they wish to bring to the UK, it is important to consider the implications of applying after 12th November. Joint income is key for many families and understanding how to ensure that eligible family members can work will be an important consideration.

Thirdly, and perhaps the change which may impact students most, there will be an increase to the maintenance requirements. Students affected include those deferring entry until 2016, or those extending their stay for varying reasons after 12th November:

  • All students will need to show they have £1,015 (previously £820) per month of study, while dependants must demonstrate they have £680 (previously £460) each month to support themselves. This must be abided by for a maximum of nine months or for the duration of study (whichever comes first).
  • Students studying in inner London will need to have £1,265 at their disposal per calendar month, with their dependants require £845.
  • Only dependants of those studying under Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension Scheme) will be able to benefit from the ‘established presence’ level of living costs, which has otherwise been made obsolete

For further information on these changes and on how to apply under Tier 4 of the Points Based System, do not hesitate to contact the team.

Leaving the EU – where would we stand?

149357543_0Over the past 12 months, there has been a large amount of speculation regarding the UK’s stance on immigration policy and whether leaving the EU is a viable and beneficial option. Recent immigration statistics published at the end of August by the Office for National Statistics illustrated that net migration to the UK had risen to 330,000 last year. Despite the Government’s target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands, this latest figure is in fact the highest on record and making up 183,000 of this figure are migrants from within the EU. Despite the Government’s target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands, this latest figure is in fact the highest on record and making up 183,000 of this figure are migrants from within the EU. Despite the Government’s target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands, this latest figure is in fact the highest on record and making up 183,000 of this figure are migrants from within the EU.

At face value therefore, it could be argued that leaving the EU and ‘free-movement’ would be a strong contributing factor to helping the Government reduce net migration and reaching its ambitious target. However face-value very rarely reflects the reality of the situation.

There is no easy solution and leaving the EU would have its own repercussions. First of all leaving the single market could have potentially detrimental consequences on business and financial services. One of the biggest advantages of the EU is free trade between member nations, making it easier and cheaper for British companies to export their goods to Europe. Second, less migrants from the EU might make for difficult policy implementation regarding asylum seekers and refugees, with the possibility of more space for this category of migrant. Third, recent data has devalued the argument that there has been a large influx of unskilled migrants entering the UK from other EU member states and in fact not having free movement would harm our chances of attracting the best talent from the continent. Finally, following Norway’s example by leaving the EU and joining the European Economic Area actually renders the UK just as susceptible to the effects of free movement as if it was still in the EU.

Combine these arguments with the fact that there is barely any significant evidence of negative impacts on jobs or average wages from EU migration, leaving the EU seems to be becoming a somewhat outdated reason for trying to lower net migration. The UK is stronger and more influential within the EU and sacrificing continent-wide and worldwide stature is not the answer. It is fair to say that the Government has its work cut out.