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Update on future changes to Tier 2 of the points based system

A review of Tier 2 of the points based immigration system was commissioned in 2015. The Migration Advisory Committee was asked to carry out a 2 part…

The Government commissioned a review of Tier 2 of the points based immigration system in June 2015. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was asked to carry out a review in 2 parts. This review is likely to lead to important changes to Tier 2 which employers need to be aware of.

The MAC was asked to review two main parts of Tier 2:

  1. Salary Thresholds - the MAC was asked to report by 21 July 2015 on Tier 2 salary thresholds: in particular whether these should be increased. This would result in fewer jobs being eligible for sponsorship under Tier 2.
  2. Other Changes to Tier 2 - the MAC was asked to report by mid-December 2015 on certain other aspects of Tier 2. The issues that it has been asked to report on are to address ‘concerns about the rising number of migrants in that route and reliance on them to fill shortages’. The policy aim behind future changes is clear. It is likely to become more difficult to sponsor migrant workers under Tier 2 once the changes are implemented.

The facts

Salary thresholds

Under the current rules, a job must be sufficiently skilled and paid a minimum salary level in order to be eligible for sponsorship.

  • For Tier 2 (General) applications, a job must be paid at least a base line salary of £20,800 or the higher rate for the job.
  • For Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) applications, a job must be paid at least £24,800 or £41,000 depending on the duration of sponsorship: or the higher rate for the job.

UKVI set the minimum salary levels for each job which is sufficiently skilled. These jobs are categorised under specific job codes.

The MAC reported on salary levels by the deadline of 21 July 2015. The Government will consider these recommendations and it will then publish any changes to the rules. We will report on these as soon as they are announced. It is likely that minimum salary levels will be increased so that certain lower paid jobs will no longer be eligible for sponsorship.

Other Changes to Tier 2

The areas of Tier 2 that are currently being considered by the MAC are as follows:

  • Restricting Tier 2 (General) recruitment to genuine skills shortages and ‘highly specialist experts only’. The MAC has been asked to consider selection criteria such as salaries, points for particular attributes, economic need and skills level.
  • How to limit the length of time occupations can be classed as having shortages. What would be an appropriate maximum duration and should there be exceptions?
  • Applying a skills levy to businesses recruiting from outside the EEA which would fund apprenticeships in the UK.
  • The impact on Tier 2 numbers, the economy and the public finances of restricting the automatic right of dependants of Tier 2 visa holders to work;
  • The scope to tighten the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) provisions and the impact this would have on business and the economy. The MAC has also been asked to consider whether the immigration health surcharge should be applied to Intra Company Transfer applications.

What does this mean for me?

Although the outcome of this review is not yet known, it is clear that the Government’s intention is to significantly reduce the number of Tier 2 workers. It is likely that salary levels will be increased for those jobs which remain eligible for sponsorship. Tier 2 may become relevant only for those roles where the individual is a highly specialist expert or for key shortages.

The Government is also looking at other ways of making Tier 2 less attractive to employers in general, for example by increasing the costs of sponsorship (with the imposition of a skills levy on top of the usual visa fees).

Comment

Employers which rely heavily on sponsoring migrant workers may wish to respond to the call for evidence so that their interests are given proper consideration before any decisions are made.