UNITED KINGDOM – Government Publishes Reforms to Tier 2 Categories

On March 24, 2016, the Home Office announced important reforms to Tier 2 skilled worker categories resulting from the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

The government’s overarching goal is to support growth and productivity in the national economy by protecting job opportunities for UK residents, reducing UK businesses’ reliance on foreign workers and preventing businesses from using foreign workers to lower wages. However, these reforms are also intended to constrain migration primarily by raising costs to employers and foreign workers.

Some of the main changes include:

  • The minimum salary threshold for experienced workers under the Tier 2 visa category will increase to £25,000 in the fall of 2016 and to £30,000 in April 2017. A few occupations such as nurses, paramedics and some teachers will be exempt from this increase until July 2019.
  • An immigration skills charge will be introduced beginning in April 2017 and will require Tier 2 employers to pay a fee of £1,000 per Certificate of Sponsorship per year. Small business and charitable sponsors will be subject to a lesser rate of £364. Exemptions to this requirement include PhD level occupations, the Intra Company Transfer Graduate Trainee category, and those switching from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 visa.
  • The Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visas will be streamlined into one category and all intra-company transferees must qualify under this single visa category with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500. The Graduate Trainee category will be exempt from these rules as it will have a minimum salary threshold of £23,000 and the number of trainees that an employer may bring to the UK will be 20. In the fall of 2016, the Skills Transfer category will be closed to new applications and the minimum salary threshold for the Short Term category will be increased to £30,000. As of April 2017, the Short Term category will be closed to new applications. The transitional period until April 2017 will allow employers to plan for these upcoming changes.
  • As of April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for intra-company transferees working between five and nine years in the UK will be lowered from £155,300 to £120,000. Furthermore, the one year experience requirement for applicants who are paid over £73,900 will be eliminated.
  • Additionally, all intra-company transferees will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge beginning in the fall of 2016.

These reforms specifically aim to reduce economic migration from outside of Europe and to ensure that skilled work visas are limited to skills shortages and highly specialist experts.