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29 Mar 2016

Government announces new and tighter restrictions on employment-related visas


We recently reported on the results of the Migration Advisory Committee's ("MAC") review of Tier 2 of the points-based system, which is the main immigration category in which skilled migrants from outside the EEA come to work in the UK.

The Government had asked the MAC to look at ways to restrict these visas to areas with genuine skills shortages and to highly specialist experts, raising Tier 2 salary thresholds to prevent migrant workers being used to undercut wages, and introducing a new immigration skills charge.

The Government has now responded with a set of firm proposals which will come into effect in two stages – in Autumn 2016 and in April 2017.

The headline points include the following:

Autumn 2016

  • An increase to the minimum salary requirement for experienced Tier 2 (General) workers to £25,000.
  • An increase to the minimum salary requirement for Short-Term Intra-Company Transfer workers to £30,000.A reduction of the minimum salary requirement for Tier 2 (Graduate Trainee) workers to £23,000 and an increase in the number of places available to companies from 5 to 20 per year.
  • Closure of the Intra-Company Transfer (Skills Transfer) sub-category to new applicants.
  • Overseas graduates to be prioritised in the Tier 2 (General) monthly visa allocation rounds.
  • Intra-Company Transfer visa applicants to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge that was introduced in April 2015.

April 2017

  • A new Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per person to be paid by sponsors, with a lower rate for small businesses (except for Graduate Trainee Intra-Company Transfer migrants and Tier 4 students switching into Tier 2).
  • Increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary thresholds for experienced workers to £30,000.
  • Closure of the Short Term Intra-Company Transfer category to new applicants.
  • Reducing the minimum salary requirement for Long-Term Intra-Company Transfer high-earners from £155,300 to £120,000.
  • Removal of the one year service requirement for Long-Term Intra-Company Transfer visas for migrants earning over £73,900.
  • High-value businesses relocating to the UK and inward investment to benefit from a waiver from the Resident Labour Market Test and be prioritised in the allocation of Tier 2 (General) visa places.

The upshot

These changes are more balanced than we had anticipated given more radical proposals previously floated by the MAC and the Government.

As expected, employers will need to build in the extra costs of sponsorship when planning the movement and recruitment of employees from outside the EEA, and also salary reviews for existing staff.

Some employers will welcome the attempt to streamline and simplify the Intra-Company Transfer sub-category. However, many will miss the flexibility offered by the Short Term and Skills Transfer Intra-Company Transfer routes.

If you want to know more about the forthcoming changes or need assistance in preparing for their implementation please contact Anne Pritam, Graham Wrightson or Emily Aryeetey.



Anne Pritam

Anne Pritam

T:  +44 20 7809 2925 M:  +44 7946 647 238 Email Anne | Vcard Office:  London

Graham Wrightson

Graham Wrightson

T:  +44 20 7809 2557 M:  +44 7826 945 534 Email Graham | Vcard Office:  London

Emily Aryeetey

Emily Aryeetey
Senior associate

T:  +971 4 407 3942 M:  Email Emily | Vcard Office:  Dubai