Whilst the future of immigration law in the UK is in a state of uncertainty, the existing regime continues, with some important changes of note.

Following the UK government’s decision earlier this year to implement the majority of the proposals submitted by the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) in its report on Tier 2, the government has now announced that some of these proposals will come into force as early as 24 November 2016.  Businesses will need to be aware of these changes when taking on and sponsoring migrant workers after this date as well the impact the changes may have on existing migrant workers.

The key changes to the Immigration Rules which reflect MAC’s recent proposals, and which will take effect from 24 November 2016, are as follows:

  • The minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (General) migrant workers is to be increased to £25,000, with the salary threshold for new entrants remaining at £20,800.  Nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin will be exempt from this increase until July 2019.  As a transitional measure, individuals who are sponsored under a Tier 2 (General) visa before 24 November 2016 and who apply to extend their visas will not be subject to the new £25,000 salary level.  However, when the government increases the salary threshold further to £30,000 (as it intends to do early next year) this transitional arrangement will no longer apply and those individuals applying to extend their visa will then have to satisfy the new minimum salary level of £30,000.
  • The minimum salary threshold for short term staff recruited under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route is to be increased to £30,000 and transitional measures will be put in place for those workers already engaged under this route.
  • The skills transfer sub-category of the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route will be closed to new applicants.
  • In respect of the graduate trainee sub-category of the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route, the number of places for graduate trainees per company per year will be increased from five to 20 and the minimum salary threshold will be reduced to £23,000.

An additional change is being made in connection with compliance requirements for Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfers).  Applicants and sponsors will now only have 10 working days to respond to requests for further information in connection with the genuine assessment requirement.  Previously, sponsors had 28 days to provide a response.

These changes represent phase one of two in the government’s timetable to implement MAC’s proposals on the Tier 2 visa route.  The remaining MAC proposals which the government has chosen to implement (including a further increase to the minimum salary level for Tier 2 (General) workers from £25,000 to £30,000 as well as the immigration skills charge) are due to come into force in April 2017 and are likely to have a more significant impact on businesses which take on migrant workers, particularly given the associated additional costs.