Personal Immigration

Home Office announces important changes to Tier 2 Immigration Rules

In its latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, the Home Office has introduced broad and sweeping changes across many categories in the Immigration Rules. The majority of changes will come into force on 6th April 2015.

Tier 2

  • The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was asked to perform a partial review of the Shortage Occupation Lists for the UK and Scotland. Changes are being made to the List, following a partial review by the independent MAC. The changes to the lists are as follows:
    • Changes to graduate occupations in the health sector for both the UK and the additional list, including the addition of paramedics to the UK list.
    • Changes to the existing entry on the UK list for overhead linesworkers in the energy industry; and
    • Reclassification of some existing entries.

Jobs on the Shortage Occupation list are exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test, are given higher priority within the Tier 2 (General) annual limit, and exempt the jobholder from the earnings threshold when they apply for indefinite leave to remain (although they must still be paid the appropriate rate for the occupation).

  • The Government intends to implement further changes to the Shortage Occupation List recommended by the MAC, relating to graduate occupations in the digital technology sector, for recruits of scale-up companies, in the near future.

Following an in depth review of the digital technology sector, including contacting government departments, hosting open forum meetings and visiting employers in the UK, the MAC has made several recommendations for roles in the digital technology sector to be added to the shortage occupation list: Product Manager (SOC 2133 IT Specialist Manager), Data Scientist (SOC 2135 IT Business Analysts Architects and Systems Designers); Senior Developer (SOC 2136 Programmers and Software Development Professionals); Cyber Security Specialist (SOC 2139 Information Technology and Telecommunications professionals) . At the moment this is only a recommendation, and will only become effective if and when the Immigration Rules and the appendices are amended.

  • A further change is being made as a result of the Migration Advisory Committee’s review, to re-classify the occupation of paramedic as being skilled to National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6, rather than NQF level 4 as it was previously. This change enables employers to sponsor paramedics from overseas to fill vacancies for which no suitable resident workers are available.

As mentioned above, Paramedics will be added to the Shortage Occupation List for the UK as well. It is open to see the detailed description of the job in Appendix J and Appendix K.

  • Annual updates are being made to the annual minimum salary thresholds and appropriate salary rates for individual occupations (as set out in codes of practice). The revised salary thresholds are as follows:

Category

Criteria

Current Threshold

New Threshold

Tier 2 (General)

Jobs which qualify for Tier 2 (General)

£20,500

£20,800

Tier 2 (General)

Jobs which are exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus (or JobCentre Online if the job is based in Northern Ireland)

£71,600

£72,500

Tier 2 (General)

Jobs which are exempt from the annual limit, 12-month cooling-off period and the Resident Labour Market Test

£153,500

£155,300

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)

Jobs which qualify for the Short Term Staff, Skills Transfer or Graduate Trainee categories (maximum stay either six months or one year)

£24,500

£24,800

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)

Jobs which qualify for the Long Term Staff category (maximum stay five years)

£41,000

£41,500

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)

Jobs which qualify for transfers of up to nine years and are exempt from the 12-month cooling-off period

£153,500

£155,300

Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Sportsperson)

Earnings which qualify for settlement (those working in PhD level or shortage occupations are exempt)

£35,800 (for settlement applications made on or after 6th April 2019)

£36,200 (for settlement applications made on or after 6th April 2020)

The updates to appropriate rates for occupations are based on the latest available salary data. The updates to salary thresholds are in line with changes in average weekly earnings for resident workers (a 1.2% annual increase based on the 12 months ending November 2014), rounded to the nearest £100. The appropriate salary rates also apply to settlement applications by work permit holders.

  • A change is also being made to the operation of the Tier 2 (General) annual limit. The limit begins in April each year and will be increased from 1,725 to 2,250. The overall size of the limit (20,700 places per year) remains unchanged, and unused places will continue to be carried over from previous months until the end of each limit year.

As the limit begins in April, no places are carried over from the previous month. The increase of the limits in April is coupled with an identified trend of relatively high demand for places in April each year.

  • A change is being made to the 12 month “cooling off period”. The change will mean the cooling off period will not apply to previous grants of Tier 2 leave of three months or less.

This is to improve flexibility for businesses that need to transfer key staff for very short periods, rather than to fill ongoing vacancies in the UK.

  • Minor changes are being made to accommodate periods of familiarisation and training for nurses and midwives under the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s new registration procedures.
  • Due to increased queries on these subjects, minor clarifications are being made to confirm:
    • that the settlement earnings threshold (see the last row in the table above) only applies at the time the application for indefinite leave to remain is made, not throughout the five-year qualifying period;

From 6th April 2015, if an applicant applies for Indefinite Leave to Remain based on Tier 2 General, they are requested to earn at least £35,000 per annum unless their position is on the Shortage Occupation List or at PHD level. It is now clarified that the settlement earning threshold only applies at the time the application for indefinite leave to remain is made.

  • how the appropriate salary rates for new entrants and experienced workers are applied;
  • for Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) applicants who have worked for their Sponsor in the UK in another immigration category, how such work will be taken into account when assessing previous experience working for the Sponsor’s organisation overseas.

Further and more detailed blog articles will be published about these changes as the UKVI updates the internal guidance documents.

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