United Kingdom–Immigration Update: Policy Changes 2015
18 March 2015
This newsflash provides a high-level overview of the recently published UK Visas and Immigration changes; providing examples of how this could impact your mobility and HR practices, along with Deloitte’s views on the practicality of the changes.
Statement of changes 26th February 2015
UK Visas and Immigration have published the following changes to salary thresholds, which will be introduced from 6th April 2015:
- The salary threshold level for Tier 2 applications has been increased. The minimum salary level for Tier 2 General applications will be £20,800 or Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code minimum, whichever is higher; for Tier 2 ICT Short Term it will be £24,800 or SOC code minimum; and for Tier 2 ICT Long Term applications it will rise to £41,500 or SOC code minimum.
- The salary threshold to be considered as a high earner will rise to £155,300.
The accepted list of English language providers has also been changed. Significantly, the Pearson test has been removed from this list. Any entry clearance and leave to remain applications requiring proof on English language proficiency made before 6th November 2015 will be permitted to use tests from the pre-6th April list as long as the test was passed before 5th April 2015. The new approved test list can be found here.
The Person English test was one of the most popular tests due to the speed that results were available. Therefore, availability of English evidence could increase preparation time for some application types.
The monthly allocation of restricted certificates of sponsorship will be changed slightly, although the annual quota will remain unchanged. The allocation in the first month of the annual quota will be increased to 2,550. The allocation for each subsequent month will be reduced to 1,650.
An additional, but very welcome, exemption to the 12 month cooling off period will be introduced. The cooling off period will not apply to those that have had a grant of leave under Tier 2 of three months or less.
The full statement of changes can be found here.
Exemption to the cooling off period for those that have held Tier 2 status for a period of leave of up to three months will increase the flexibility that employers have to bring non-EEA nationals to the UK, meaning staff can be transferred for short periods of time rather than filling a longer-term vacancy.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are set to increase their fees to process immigration applications from April 2015. The largest fee increase is for Indefinite Leave to Remain/Permanent Residence applications. There are no changes to the fees to use either the Priority or Premium services for in-country applications.
The principal fee increases that may affect your business are:
- Tier 2 Certificates of Sponsorship fee: current fee is £184, is increasing to £199
- Tier 2 General and Intra-Company Transfer Intra Company Transfer (ICT) Long Term Entry Clearance applications issued for a period of three years or less: current fee is £514, is increasing to £564
- Tier 2 ICT Short Term Entry Clearance applications: current fee is £428, is increasing to £445
- Entry Clearance priority processing: current fee is £100, is increasing to £120
- Tier 2 General and ICT Long Term In-country applications issued for a period of three years or less: current fee is £601, is increasing to £651
- Tier 2 ICT Short Term In-country applications: current fee is £428, is increasing to £445
- Indefinite Leave to Remain applications: current fee is £1,093, is increasing to £1,500
- British Citizenship (adult) applications: current fee is £826, is increasing to £925
- European applications: current fee is £55, is increasing to £65
National Health Charge, National Health Service (NHS), surcharge introduction
It is anticipated that the planned NHS surcharge will be implemented from 6th April 2015 as follows:
- The NHS surcharge is £200 per person, per year, and will be applicable to those applying for a Tier 2 General visa over six months. It will be paid upfront for the duration of the visa. For example, for a family of four applying for visas for three years, the health care surcharge payable at the time of application will be £2,400.
- The fee will also be applicable when extending leave to remain inside the UK.
- At present, Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer migrants will not be subject to the surcharge.
If introduced, the NHS surcharge comes as no surprise and reflects the expected fees following the Department of Health’s Visitor & Migrant NHS Cost Recovery Programme published in July last year. Employers should be aware that the charge cannot be reimbursed should the migrant leave the UK earlier than expected.
Biometric Immigration Document (BID) replacing visa
Migrants applying for visas to enter the UK for more than six months will no longer be issued with long-term visas from March 2015. A 30-day temporary visa allowing him or her to enter the UK will be issued, in addition to a notification letter with details of where to obtain the BID upon arrival in the UK. The BID must be collected within 10 days of arrival in the UK. The aim of the scheme is to provide greater security to UK borders, and to prevent abuse of access to the labour market and public services.
The introduction of the BID will be in phases with Pakistan being proposed as the first country to go live with the new process. From 31 July 2015, the BID process will be implemented worldwide.
Streamlined visitor rules
Deloitte was heavily involved in seeking amendments and clarifications to the visitor rules and we are very pleased that the UK government listened to us. The simplification and additions to the rules makes for great progress.
New immigration rules for visitors will come into effect from 6th April 2015, subject to parliamentary approval on 26th February. The principal changes to these rules are:
- Clarification of types of work prohibited as a visitor
- Rationalising the number of visitor categories
- Addition of permitted activities to include: Employees of an overseas training company delivering global training to employees of a multinational company in the UK; training in specialist UK work practices and techniques to be delivered by non-corporate organisations; expansion of provision of overseas lawyers to advise UK clients on litigation and international transactions to include lawyers who are not employed by an overseas multinational company.
Changes will come into effect from April with transitional arrangements in place. New visit visa endorsements will be seen on issued visas from late summer.
Changes to the visitor rules should be of a great help to employers in navigating this previously very grey area. The Tier 2 route should continue to be considered where activities to be performed in the UK would be outside those that are allowed under the new streamlined visitor rules.
Shortage occupation list following Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) review
The MAC was commissioned by the government in September 2014 to carry out a partial review of the shortage occupation list. Shortage occupations are occupations where there are insufficient workers in the UK to fill available jobs in particular industries. For roles that fall under this list, a resident labour market test is not required before assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) under the Tier 2 General category. Following the report, the following changes will be made:
- Paramedics will be classified as an National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6 role therefore qualifying under Tier 2;
- Some changes to graduate occupations in the health sector;
- An addition of a Scotland-specific list.
The government has the intention to implement further recommendations including adding a small number of graduate jobs in digital technology.
UK post-study work opportunities for students
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has published a report making recommendations following the removal of the Tier 1 Post Study Work category. The aim of the group is to maximise the attractiveness of the UK for international students and to continue to serve the interests of UK employers. The recommendations of the group are as follows:
- Establish a new immigration route to allow non-EEA students to stay in the UK for at least 12 months and secure skilled employment;
- Improvements to the Tier 2 category to allow more flexibility for graduate salaries across the regions of the UK and a review of licensing and reporting requirements for employers;
- Improve the additional routes for post-study work including Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension), and Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange);
- The government should commission an in-depth independent review into the impact of policy in this area regarding the UK’s share of the international student market.
Currently, the most popular route for students that have completed and passed their degree in the UK is sponsorship under the Tier 2 General route. The full report can be found here.
The UK Visas and Immigration changed their policy on annual COS allocation renewal (current-year allocation expires on 5 April 2015) and some sponsors have been enrolled on automatic renewal scheme. Those sponsors that have been enrolled on the scheme will see, 'Automatic renewal' displayed in the Number of COS requested column on the Sponsor Management System.
The Tier 1 General route will close for applications on 5th April. All extensions before this date will be issued for a period of three years.
If you have any questions on this, or any other immigration review, then please contact the Deloitte immigration team who will be pleased to assist.
If you have any questions concerning the issues in this GES NewsFlash, please contact a GES professional at our Deloitte offices as follows:
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