25 Jan 2016

Proposals to tighten up access to Tier 2 working visa

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The Migration Advisory Committee ("MAC") published their long-awaited review of the Tier 2 points-based system working visa route on 19 January 2016, which has attracted much interest from the media and other commentators. The MAC is a non-statutory, non-departmental public body established to advise the Government on migration. It has made a number of recommendations which, if implemented, have the potential to reduce the numbers of non-EEA skilled migrants coming to the UK to work under Tier 2 visa routes significantly. This ties into the Government's efforts to limit inward migration from outside the EEA.

What is Tier 2?

The Tier 2 visa category is split into several sub-tiers. The primary route for work-based migration is the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) sub-tier. Tier 2 (General) is for skilled migrants coming to fill jobs from outside the EEA and Tier 2 (ICT) allows multinational companies to transfer key personnel from their overseas branches to the UK temporarily.

Summary of recommended changes

The MAC's key recommendations are as follows:

  • Increase the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 skilled migrants from £20,800 to £30,000, with a lower threshold of £23,000 for graduates.
  • Introduce an Immigration Skills Charge on employers. This would be an upfront levy of £1,000 per year for each Tier 2 migrant sponsored. It is anticipated that this would create £250M in revenue for skills funding annually.
  • Create a new Tier 2 sub-category for third party contractors, with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500.
  • Extend the requisite qualifying service for Tier 2 (ICT) from 12 months to two years.
  • Require sponsors to demonstrate that a vacancy to be filled by a Tier 2 (ICT) migrant is "sufficiently specialist" to warrant the recruitment of a candidate who is not a resident worker.
  • Remove the requirement to undertake the Resident Labour Market Test (a prescribed recruitment exercise) for individuals switching to Tier 2 from other visa categories.

Contrary to our expectations, the MAC did not recommend: 

  • Limiting Tier 2 (General) to jobs on an (expanded) shortage occupation list; or
  • Restricting automatic working rights for dependants.

Implications

Clearly, if these recommendations are adopted by the Government multinational companies who currently employ a large number of non-EEA migrant workers under Tier 2 will need to factor in the additional financial cost and restrictions on meeting internal resourcing requirements.

If you need any assistance with business immigration, please contact Anne Pritam or Emily Aryeetey.

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