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Imminent immigration law changes

Changes include new salary requirements, a revision of the skilled occupations list and changes to the way that the resident labour market test is…

Through a ‘statement of intent’ the Home Office has announced changes to the Immigration Rules applying to skilled migrant workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (“EEA”).

The changes include new salary requirements, a revision of the list of skilled occupations and significant changes to the way that the resident labour market test (RLMT) is carried out.

If you are planning on issuing or applying for a restricted certificate of sponsorship before 6 April 2013 the changes could also affect you.

Any simplification of the Immigration Rules (in particular the RLMT) is likely to be welcomed by employers. However, the extent of the welcome will depend largely on how the government’s aims are reflected in the Immigration Rules.

The UK’s points based system has been in operation for some time now, since it replaced the old work permit system in 2008. Migrants from outside the EEA have to show that they have certain desirable attributes, which are converted into ‘points’, before they can obtain clearance to enter or remain in the UK.

Points are awarded depending on the attributes required for the Tier of entry being applied for, but include age, qualifications, earnings and ability to speak English.

RLMT

In addition to having the required number of ‘points’, and unless certain exceptions apply, the RLMT must also be completed to determine whether suitable settled workers are available for a job, before it can be offered to a migrant worker. The test requires the sponsoring employer to advertise the vacancy, in specified media, to settled workers for a minimum of 28 calendar days. Only if the advertising is unsuccessful, can the employer go on to offer a migrant worker the position.

The current lists of specific publications and websites where vacancies can be advertised are to be replaced with a simplified set of criteria for identifying the suitable media where the role should be advertised.

The stated aim is to make the RLMT more flexible, giving employers more freedom to advertise where they think will be most successful, while ensuring settled workers have the opportunity to apply for jobs.  

However, it’s not all good news, as the much maligned requirement to advertise in Job Centre Plus will remain, for now at least (unless the job in question attracts a salary of £71,000 or more).

Similarly, the Government stopped short of a wider review of the difficulties experienced by employers in evidencing the completion of the RLMT itself.

Salary requirements

The overall salary thresholds which apply across Tier 2 will be increased in April, in line with wage inflation:-

  • The new Tier 2 (General) threshold will be £20,300;
  • The threshold for exemption from the requirement to advertise with Job Centre Plus is due to increase to £71,000; and
  • The threshold for exemption from the annual limit on a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship and from the RLMT is due to increase to £152,100.

There is some useful relaxation of the rules regarding notification of any change to employment terms and conditions for Tier 2 employees.  It is now not necessary to notify the UKBA about reductions to salaries as long as the reduction does not fall below the occupation or overall salary threshold (see above).

Shortage occupation list

There are obvious advantages for an employer if a vacancy is listed on the Shortage Occupation List, as applicants for these positions are not subject to the RLMT and they are also given priority by UKBA when allocating places under Tier 2.   The Government has accepted recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and has now extended the list of shortage occupations to include a wider range of jobs needing engineering, IT and mathematics based skills.   The full list is published in the Government’s Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules.

Switching

A common method for a Tier 4 migrant student to remain living and working in the UK post study, was to switch into another Tier on completion of the course of study.  The rules regarding switching from one Tier to another have been clarified: a Tier 4 post graduate student may switch to a Tier 2 but only where the job is at graduate level and paying the threshold level of £20,300.  The alternative is to switch to a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur scheme and become self-employed.

The future

Business immigration is a continually changing area of legislation.  We are here to help if you should wish to have up to date guidance on any problems you encounter in this area.