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What changes can you expect for Tier 2 of the points based system from April 2017?

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) last year announced some intended changes to Tier 2 which are almost upon us. So that employers and employees alike are prepared, we summarise below expected changes as a result of the Statement of Changes HC 877. We also summarise some of the changes that will not take place, some of which will come as a relief to many. Finally, for what it is worth, we give our opinion on some of the changes and what they could mean to our clients and those that it affects. We have put these into FAQS to make for easier reading.

What is the Immigration Skills Charge?

From April 2017 the immigration skills charge will apply to all Tier 2 migrants applying to remain or enter the UK. For charities and smaller businesses, this skills charge will amount to £364 and for larger business this will be £1000.

What did employers and migrants have to pay for the Tier 2 General process before the skills charge?

Currently, if you employ an overseas migrant, there are the following fees;

Is the Immigration Skills Charge fair?

This is not a welcome change as it will make an already difficult process more difficult for migrants to find work in the UK. Whilst the change is not ideal, it does make exceptions which includes Tier 4 students switching from inside the UK to Tier 2, Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainees and certain PHD occupations. It is these groups within Tier 2 that would have suffered most, especially Tier 4 students. When considered as a whole, the change is not half as bad as it could have been and so it is good to see that the government are trying to implement change with a degree of sense.

What changes are there going to be to Tier 2 (General)?

With Tier 2 General the job recruited for has to meet a certain threshold under the SOC codes. Each code has a salary threshold which is the minimum they must receive. The MAC report suggested changing this to £30,000 from April 2017. There are some education and health care professionals that will not have to earn this minimum threshold until July 2019, although the minimum £20,800 will still apply to them.

Nurses enjoy exemptions from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) currently as they are on the "Shortage Occupation List". However, this will change with the need for advertising to still take place despite the occupation staying on the shortage list.

Why does the job title for Nurses not move to the Standard Occupation Classifications?

This is a strange decision given the shortage occupation list is there to illustrate roles that are difficult to recruit for and so should not attract an advertising process like the "Standard Occupational Classifications". Why would the government choose to keep Nurses on the shortage list if advertising is mandatory? Why not move them to the Standard list? Either way, this change is due to take place in April 2017 and there is not plausible reason we can offer for this change.

Will the Resident Labour Market Test still be exempt for Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2?

The MAC report covered the exemption that Tier 4 students currently enjoy when switching to Tier 2. Tier 4 students do not need to complete the Resident Labour Market test which the MAC report suggested should be removed. The government have mercifully chosen to not introduce this nonsensical change.

Tier 4 students that have chosen to move to the UK to study should be given some advantage in finding work. It is already difficult for them to find a Tier 2 visa given the associated expense. Had the decision been made to take this away, this would not have passed a positive message to the world. We should encourage bright students to stay in the UK if their talent justifies it. Employers should have an easy option employer Tier 4 migrants and that is what the RLMT exemption does which is, in our opinion, a good thing.

What changes will there be to Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)?

This category is going to take a substantial hit, although some changes are positive. The government are going to be removing the Tier 2 (ICT - Skills transfer) and Tier 2 (ICT Short-Term Staff) categories. I know that this has not been good news for many larger businesses, for example the Mail online.

The new 'simplified' category will have a single minimum threshold of £41,500 providing provisions mainly for senior managers and specialists.

The Tier 2 (ICT - Graduate Trainees) will be reduced to £23,000 with an increase from five to twenty allowable applicants.

The Tier 2 ICT higher earner threshold will also sensibly be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. This allows for a longer term of residence in the UK which is up to 9 years.

All Tier 2 ICT migrants will now be subject to the IHS surcharge.

Has the government struck a fair balance and what do these changes show the world?

The government have targets to meet although the initial target has been revised. That said, we can continue to expect regular changes to restrict the system being abused. In some instances, the changes do not restrict abuse but instead encourage talent to leave the UK in search of employment in other developed nations. The government need to make sure that a balance is struck between restricting the rules and 'putting off' migrants and employers from going through the Tier 2 General process.

The team at Reiss Edwards consists of some of London's leading immigration solicitors. If you require expert legal advice on TIer 2 visa application, sponsor licence or CoS requests please call us on 020 3744 2797.

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