On 19 January 2016, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its recommendations to tighten the Tier 2 route which is the primary route for economic migration to the UK. As a consequence, the UK Government is set to roll out some major changes to the immigration system that will affect workers, students, businesses and family life in general for migrants.
We have set out below a summary of the new changes that are due to be implemented. It is important to note that, while the UK government is not obliged to implement all of the MAC’s recommendations, historically, it has implemented the majority of changes proposed by the MAC. Therefore it is highly likely that the below recommendations would be put in place and UK employers should be prepared for these changes to be introduced in April.
- Increase the minimum annual salary threshold to £30,000 for the Tier 2 General and Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Short Term routes. For new entrants within Tier 2 General and Tier 2 Graduate Trainee, a lower threshold should be set at £23,000.
- Tier 2 ICT Long and Short term migrants should be required to have two years of previous experience, rather than one year under the current rules.
- Sponsors should be required to provide a more detailed description of the role to be undertaken in the UK to ensure that it is sufficiently specialised.
- Tier 2 ICT migrants, and family members, should be subject to the Immigration Health Surcharge which is £200 per year.
- A new Tier 2 ICT route should be created for third-party contractors with a minimum salary level of £41,500.
- All in-country applicants (other than shortage occupations) should be subject to the resident labour market test and included in the monthly Certificate of Sponsorship quota. The current RLMT exemption for those switching in- country from Tier 4 to Tier 2 (General) should be removed
- The automatic right to work for the dependents of Tier 2 migrants should be retained.
- An Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) should apply to every employer recruiting migrants under Tier 2 (except graduate trainees). This should be set at £1,000 per year per Tier 2 migrant.
Other changes which are due to be implemented are-
- Increased Fees- the UK government are looking to increase fees for immigration applications in April 2016. The government recently announced that fees for settlement, residence and nationality will increase by 25% in 2016–17 and visit, study and work visa fees will increase by around 2%. There will also be targeted increases to premium services, such as the priority visa service. The specific fee changes for 2016–17 will apply after further legislation is laid in Parliament by April this year.
- The government have also indicated that they are looking to extend charges for Non-EU overseas visitors and migrants to access various departments of the NHS. They are looking to extend beyond the health surcharge to Accidents and Emergency (A&E), ambulance care as well as some general practitioner (GP) services such as blood tests, lung function tests, prescriptions, dental treatment and physiotherapy
- The Immigration Bill- The Immigration Billhas reached the committee stage in the House of Lords and will likely become law this year. It includes a range of policy changes, particularly targeting illegal workers and businesses. Those found working illegally in England and Wales could face up to six months in jail with wages being seized as ‘proceeds of crime’ and employers could face a maximum criminal penalty which has changed from 2 to 5 years. Additionally, with new laws allowing banks, police, DVLA and landlords to be given new powers to check immigration status, families could easily find various aspects of their daily life surveilled.
- Residence in the UK- Beginning April 2016, Tier 2 Migrants must earn at least £35,000 to be able to apply for permanent residence.
- Right to Rent- Beginning 1st February 2016, the ‘right to rent’ scheme is being rolled out UK wide. Private landlords will be compelled by law to check the immigration status of all their tenants. Landlords will need to take copies of all adult passports or residence permits. Failure to do so could result in them being fined up to £3,000 per tenant, for each tenant who has no right to rent in the UK, including undocumented migrants.
About the Author
Rahul is a Partner and Head of the firm’s Business Immigration group and is dual-qualified licensed to practice law in India and the UK. His work covers Sponsor Licence Applications, Audits, Tier 2 applications, Tier 1 Investor and Tier 1 Entrepreneurs applications. Rahul also regularly advises on matters relating to European free movement rights and complex Tier 2 compliance issues consulting on risk management and remediation strategies. Acting for many of the firm’s highest profile corporate clients, from major multinationals to start-up businesses, as well as high net worth individuals, Rahul notably has considerable experience in the TMT, Oil & Gas and professional services sectors- his clients including insurance businesses, law firms, management consultancies, IT companies, the fashion and the arts industry. On the private immigration side, Rahul works closely with international wealth managers and family offices and primarily advises high net-worth clients who require bespoke UK immigration and citizenship solutions. Rahul also has a proven track record of delivering high quality relocation programme management services to multi-national clients and has vast experience in Policy Development and Benchmarking, Programme Implementation, Supplier Sourcing and Mobility Outsourcing and Procurement. As an excellent speaker Rahul is often invited to present to clients, lawyers and contacts across the world on immigration topics. He is also a regular contributor to various well-known publications including Legal Business and The Lawyer.