Immigration update – rule changes impacting employers

We have set out below some recent and forthcoming immigration changes which may impact employers.

We have set out below some recent and forthcoming immigration changes which may impact employers.

Changes to Tier 2

Tier 2 is for skilled workers who are sponsored by their employer to work in the UK. There are a number of changes to this Tier which have applied since November 2015:

Additions to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)

  • Nurses: In light of high nursing vacancy rates and inevitable NHS winter pressures, nurses were added to the SOL list on an interim basis in November 2015. The Migration Advisory Committee has been asked to report to the Government by February 2016 on whether nurses should be added to the shortage occupation list on a permanent basis. It was reported that there were nursing vacancy rates of around 10% within the health and social care sector which was twice the maximum level recommended by NICE. This change has been introduced to ease the pressure on the NHS at a time when it is facing pressure to limit spending on agency nurses.

  • The addition of nurses to the shortage occupation list has three main benefits for employers in the healthcare sector:
    • It will be quicker and more straightforward for employers to sponsor non-EEA nurses to come to work in the UK under Tier 2 of the points based system. It is no longer the case that employers need to satisfy the resident labour market test by demonstrating through advertising that the job cannot be filled by a resident worker.
    • Nurses will be prioritised if the Immigration Limit is full in any month from December 2015 onwards. This is because jobs on the shortage occupation list are awarded additional points. This may make it more difficult for other employers to sponsor employees under Tier 2 in lower paid jobs as nurses are likely to use up a significant number of sponsorship places in the coming months.
    • Nurses will not have to satisfy the new earnings threshold of £35,000 or above (which will be in place from 6 April 2016) in order to apply for settlement. This is a consequence of the role being included on the SOL.

  • Certain Digital Technology jobs have also been added to the SOL: Product Manager; Data Scientist; Senior Developer; and Cyber Security Specialist.

Tier 2 policy guidance changes

  • Minor amendments have been made to the Tier 2 policy guidance to refer to shared parental leave. For example, a change in a migrant’s salary due to taking such leave should be reported through the Sponsor Management System. This is to bring shared parental leave into line with other forms of family leave.
  • The Policy Guidance clarifies that DBS checks should be carried out on employees who come into contact with children and a record of this should be kept on file. The list of documents which employers require to keep on file has been updated: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keep-records-for-sponsorship-appendix-d
  • The Policy Guidance has tightened up the rules about the circumstances in which someone can assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to a family member.
  • The rules which provide that Tier 2 sponsored migrants cannot be absent from work without pay for 30 days or more in total during any calendar year (except for specific reasons) will be amended to 28 days to avoid confusion from employers.
  • There is a minor change to the rules on maintenance for family members.

Forthcoming Changes to the Rules on Settlement

  • From 6 April 2016, those who apply for settlement will generally have to earn £35,000 or above. There are certain exceptions to this (e.g. in relation to the SOL).

Changes to Tier 5 and (Temporary Workers) and (Youth Mobility Scheme) Scheme

  • The annual allocation of places available under the Youth Mobility scheme for 2016 has been decided. There is an increase in the number of migrants who can come to the UK from Australia and New Zealand (9%).

What does this mean for me?

These amendments should come as good news for employers in the healthcare sector. Employers should also check that their procedures have taken account of the changes to the Tier 2 Policy Guidance.

If you have any questions regarding these changes or require, would like to discuss any other business immigration matter or arrange a mock compliance visit, please contact one of our immigration experts:

Elaine McIlroy (elaine.mcllroy@weightmans.com) in Glasgow
Michael Ryley (michael.ryley@weightmans.com) in London
Mandy Higgins (mandy.higgins@weightmans.com) in the North West
Georgina Porter (georgina.porter@weightmans.com) in the Midlands
Ross Hutchison (ross.hutchison@weightmans.com) in Leeds

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