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Five immigration changes to watch out for in 2017

2016 saw a wide range of changes made to the Immigration Rules and UK Visas & Immigration guidance, a trend that is set to continue in 2017.

We set out five key, up-coming changes that employers should be aware of.

1. Increase in Salary Thresholds

  • The minimum salary threshold for experienced workers in the Tier 2 (General) category increased in November 2016 to £25,000pa and will increase again in April 2017 to £30,000pa. This is a further substantial increase and before offering a salary at this level to a migrant worker, employers must consider whether this could cause disparity in salary rates between migrant workers and settled workers.
  • Following the closure of the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) Skills Transfer category in November 2016, the Short-Term category will also close to new applicants in April 2017. A new, simplified Tier 2 (ICT) route is expected to be implemented by April 2017 which will have a set minimum salary of £41,500pa. The purpose of this change is to encourage the transfer of only leading senior managers and experts from overseas companies in to the UK.
  • The minimum salary threshold for applicants transferring to work in the UK for between 5 and 9 years will fall from £155,300pa to £120,000pa from April 2017. This will broaden the scope of employees who could transfer to the UK long-term. It is important to discuss with potential long-term employees their future intentions as such a transfer does not usually lead to settlement in the UK.

2. Resident Labour Market Test

  • From April 2017, for applications relating to the relocation of a high-value business to the UK or, potentially, supporting inward investment into the UK, the resident labour market test will be waived. There will also be extra weighting given to such applications within the allocation of a restricted certificate of sponsorship. Guidance on how exactly employers can show that the application relates to the relocation of a high-value business or supports inward investment is expected in due course.
  • It is anticipated that the resident labour market test will also be required for applications to extend a migrant worker’s leave to remain when continuing to work in the same occupation for the same sponsor to ensure that the applicant is not changing from a shortage occupation to a non-shortage occupation.

3. Criminal Record Certificate

  • With effect from 6 April 2017, Tier 2 migrants working within the public sector roles, including teaching, social services and the medical profession will be required to obtain criminal record checks from each country where they have resided for 12 months or more and provide these as part of the visa application process. This will also apply to any adult dependants when applying for entry clearance.

4. Immigration Health Surcharge

  • Those applying for entry clearance or limited leave to remain under Tier 2 (ICT) will soon need to pay the Health Surcharge. This is £200 for each complete year they are seeking to spend in the UK, with 50% of the fee payable for durations of 6 months and under. The date for implementation of this requirement has not been set but is likely to be the beginning of April 2017. This must be paid at the time the applicant makes their visa application and employers should consider whether this is a payment which they will make on behalf of the applicant or not.

5. Immigration Skills Charge

  • The Immigration Skills Charge will be levied against Tier 2 employers from April 2017 in an effort to reduce employers’ reliance on migrant workers and instead invest in developing the skills of UK workers. This fee will be levied as an upfront charge of £1,000 per sponsored migrant per year. Small businesses and charities will be granted a reduced rate of £364 per sponsored migrant per year. This adds yet another cost to the sponsorship of a migrant worker and so employers should carefully analyse the skills shortages in their businesses and determine the best way to fill these. Migrant workers that hold a PhD occupation, Tier 2 (Graduate Trainee) and applicants changing status from a Tier 4 (Student) to a Tier 2 (General) visa will be exempt.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

These changes add to an already complex series of processes and procedures and increase the expense that employers must incur to enable them to recruit migrant workers.

We can provide advice and guidance on such recruitment decisions and the visa application process and discuss in more detail what these changes mean for you and/or your business.

For further information on how we can help, please contact Flora Mewies or another member of our Immigration Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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