Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules Nov 2016
15 November 2016
The Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has today laid new immigration rules in parliament. The changes to the Tier 2 sub-categories will come into effect on 24 November while the implementation of the health surcharge proposals will be announced at a later date. The announcement implements the first of two phases of changes to Tier 2, which were announced by former Immigration Minister James Brokenshire in March earlier this year, following the review and proposals of the Migration Advisory Committee.
The statement also includes a new English language requirement for partners and parents, which will be introduced on 1 May 2017, at level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This will affect applicants for further leave to remain in the UK as a partner or parent, after completing 30 months (2.5 years) on a 5-year route to settlement under Appendix FM.
The government will also not authorise Tier 4 visa holders to switch to Tier 2 if they hold a qualification from an institution which is not a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution.
In summary, the rule changes are as follows:
Implementation of the first of 2 phases of changes to Tier 2, announced by the government in March following a review by the Independent Migration Advisory Committee.
- Increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000, with some exemptions;
- Increasing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short term staff to £30,000;
- Reducing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000 and increasing the number of places to 20 per company per year;
- Closing the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category.
These changes will come into effect for all certificates of sponsorship assigned by Tier 2 sponsors on or after 24 November 2016. The date from which intra company transfers will be liable for the health surcharge will be announced in due course. The Government also intends to increase the Tier 2 General threshold to £30,000 in April 2017. Tier 2 General sponsored workers who wish to extend their stay in the same category will not be affected but those sponsored between 24 November 2016 and April 2017 will have to satisfy the £30,000 threshold.
A number of changes are being made, including amendments to the academic progression rule, maintenance requirements for the Doctorate Extension Scheme and evidence of overseas qualifications, UK qualifications used as evidence, and a series of minor and technical adjustments.
English language requirement
As announced in January this year, a new English language requirement at level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is being introduced for non-EEA partners and parents.
This affects those applying to extend their stay after 2.5 years in the UK on a 5-year route to settlement under Appendix FM (Family Member) of the Immigration Rules. The new requirement will apply to partners and parents whose current leave under the family Immigration Rules is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017.
Further to the announcement today it is vitally important that employers make themselves aware of the upcoming changes and various deadlines which they will be required to meet to avoid falling foul of the new requirements.
Employers must assign Tier 2 General (experienced worker) Certificate of Sponsorships with salaries of below £25,000 no later than 23rd November 2016. This also applies to certificates of sponsorship for Tier 2 Intra Company Transferees in the short term staff category where there is a salary of less than £30,000.
Additionally, employers wishing to utilise the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category, must assign any certificates of sponsorship by 23rd November 2016. After this date the Tier 2 (ICT) skills transfer sub-category route will be closed.
These rules undoubtedly make it tougher for UK employers to recruit skilled workers and in particular Tier 2 staff being transferred on a short term basis. The changes outlined above will be followed by further changes scheduled to be implemented in April 2017, which include the abolition of Tier 2 ICT transferees in the short term staff sub category.
Employers should consider the implications on their business and plan accordingly for the closure of the Tier 2 ICT Short Term staff and Tier 2 ICT Skills transfer routes during the next six months. Both sub categories have proved to be flexible and beneficial routes for employers wishing to transfer staff to the UK for short periods of time.
The measures concerning language testing, although still at a basic level, will mean a greater scrutiny of family members’ ability to integrate and could lead to additional difficulties in individuals meeting the requirements for settlement applications.