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

CX0y148WAAE6h9J

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”.

Living illegally in the UK to become even tougher

Yesterday Minister of State for Immigration, James Brokenshire, announced in a press release that new measures, to be introduced in autumn, will aim to tackle illegal immigration, making it even harder for illegal migrants to live in United Kingdom.

The government’s latest proposed measures include a crackdown on individuals driving a car whilst in the UK illegally. The Bill could see vehicles being seized from any individual who does not have the right to be in the UK. Migrants could also find themselves facing a sentence of up to six months in prison and an unlimited fine.

Immigration Enforcement Officers will have new powers to be able to search properties, individuals and seize vehicles if somebody is suspected of being in the UK illegally.

There are three prevailing themes in the new immigration Bill:

  • There will be a clampdown on the exploitation of low-skilled migrants and employers could see an increase in punishments for employing individuals who are in the UK illegally
  • There will be an increase of powers, making it easier to remove individuals who do not have a right to reside in the UK
  • The Bill will build on the Immigration Act 2014, which wants to ensure that only people living legally in the UK can obtain driving licences, bank accounts and rental accommodation

In his statement yesterday, James Brokenshire announced that “Whether it is working, renting a flat, having a bank account or driving a car, the new Immigration Bill will help us to take tougher action than ever before on those who flout the law.”

Lower salary threshold for latest Tier 2 allocations

All Tier 2 restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) applications scoring at least 45 points will be granted this July. This will come as a relief to UK businesses sponsoring non-EEA nationals and is a stark change to last month’s oversubscribed Tier 2 (General) limit.

Last month, applications scoring less than 50 points were being refused due to the sheer volume of applications exceeding the number of available certificates.

Countless businesses in the UK faced restricted CoS rejections and needed to start the recruitment process from scratch.

June’s minimum salary requirement was £46,000, considerably higher than July’s requirement of £32,000. Migrants who score at least 45 points on their restricted CoS and are being offered a minimum annual salary of £32,000, should be successful.

Managing Director Jonathan Beech said “It is important to note that just because the number of points required for restricted CoS sponsorships are lower than last month, it does not mean that they are going to be the same or lower in the next coming months”.

Britain to streamline visa procedures for Chinese tourists as of today

Applying for British and European visas at the same time often takes non-EEA tourists a long time, and potentially costs hundreds of pounds.

The UK government has made this a thing of the past for Chinese visitors and business travellers, who as of today, will be able to apply for both UK and European visas in one simple, single process.

The worry was that previously, Chinese visitors were being deterred from holidaying in the UK since this involved applying for a separate visa.

Previously, tourists were only able to apply for one single Schengen visa for most of the EU, excluding the UK, thus, this scheme will be highly beneficial.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA), claims that Britain could be losing as much as 1.2 billion pounds a year due to Chinese tourists choosing to visit cities such as Paris and Milan instead of London, which requires a separate visa.

Home Secretary Theresa May said that “This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe” whether it is for leisure or business.

Applicants will now be able to apply online, using the same set of documents for both visas and then finalise the process by booking an appointment for a UK visa.

 

Prime Minister to consider new measures in bid to cut demand for migrant labour

In an attempt to reduce migrant labour to the UK and give British people “the skills they need” to find jobs, Prime Minister Cameron has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to look into ways of curbing non-EEA migrant labour.

The Migration Advisory Committee will advise on ways of boosting funding for UK apprenticeships and rising minimum salary thresholds for work visa applications as well as modifying the skills shortage criteria.

The government will require the MAC to look into re-structuring visa routes where skills shortages are genuinely required and ways of limiting the time that any sector is seen as being in shortage.

Mr Cameron’s government have suggested implementing a levy on Tier 2 visas. They argue that this could be used to fund apprenticeships, thus, helping British people.

If new proposals go ahead, there could also be restrictions on the automatic right to work of Tier 2 dependants and the Intra Company Transfer route could see the introduction of the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Prime Minister Cameron claims that “in the past, it has been too easy for businesses to recruit from overseas, undermining those who want to work hard and do the right thing”.

 

Comprehensive Sickness Insurance to Be Required For EEA Student Family Members

Currently, EEA students are required to hold Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) for themselves, but these Regulations do not include family members who are in the UK residing with them.

As of 6th April 2015, amendments were made to EEA Regulations and once implemented, students who have family members residing with them in the UK, will be required to also obtain CSI for each family member.

Due to operational reasons, students are not currently required to obtain CSI for their family members, however, this Regulation will be implemented as of 22nd June 2015.

This means that any application received on or after 22nd June 2015, will require CSI for any family members of students residing in the UK with them. If CSI cannot be evidenced, applications will be refused under Regulation 4.

Comment: Cameron’s Speech on Immigration Today

Following on from Prime Minister Cameron’s election victory, today he continued to express his determination to cut net migration to below 100,000 per annum at the Queen’s speech. This has come at a time when the Office for National Statistics has revealed that contrary to David Cameron’s ambitious target, in 2014 net migration rose to 318,000, increasing 52% from 2013.

Politicians use the rhetoric of “cuts, curbing and clamping down” but are these figures really as pejorative as they are made out to be? Should the UK be forcing hard-working, educated and skilled migrants out of the United Kingdom when it has been proven that there is a direct correlation between skilled migration and prosperity?

As professor Christian Dustmann from University College London once said, “Immigration to the UK since 2000 has been of substantial net fiscal benefit” due to the fact that migrants are statistically paying more taxes than they have received in benefits.

It is understandable that Prime Minister Cameron is under pressure from the growing anti-immigration rhetoric being expressed by other politicians and the public. Furthermore, too much of anything can lead to problems and this phrase could be applied to overspending, over-cutting and even over building. Too many migrants could arguably put a strain on the National Health Service, housing and welfare. However, net migration figures are too quick to point out who came and who left in a one size fits all ambiguous fashion. These statistics are not necessarily a direct reflection of what’s happening on the ground.

Currently students, temporary workers and asylum seekers residing in the UK for over a year are included within the net migration figures. These three categories could make up hundreds of thousands of individuals contained within the migration statistics. It may therefore be realistic to remove these temporary migrants from the figures.

Recent statistics have proven that international students are imperative to the success of the UK economy and our universities. Foreign students in London alone contribute to roughly £2.3 billion to the UK economy each year and universities would struggle without these students who effectively fund the excellent new facilities that can be found all around the country.

Skilled migrants under the Points Based System often apply under the Intra-company Transfer category which means that they may reside in the UK for a maximum of 5 years and have no entitlement to settle.

One could say that it is these hard-working, tax-paying temporary migrants who are being penalised, it is these migrants that are not being mentioned in the anti-immigration rhetoric.

 

Sources: https://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/migration1/migration-statistics-quarterly-report/may-2015/stb-msqr-may-2015.html
https://londonfirst.co.uk/international-students-a-2-3-billion-british-success-story/
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1114/051114-economic-impact-EU-immigration/#video