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A number of changes to the Immigration Rules came into effect on 24 November 2016, with further changes coming into force in April 2017.  Some of the key changes which took effect in November 2016 are as follows:

  • The Tier 2 (General) minimum salary threshold for experienced workers has increased to £25,000 for the majority.  This will not however apply to any workers sponsored before 24thNovember 2016 who apply to extend their Tier 2 (General) visa.  It will also not apply to nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in certain subjects (including mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science) until July 2019.
  • The Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) minimum salary for short-term staff has increased to £30,000, while the minimum salary for graduate trainees was reduced to £23,000 and the number of places a sponsor can use has increased from five to 20 a year.
  • The Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category has closed to new applicants.
  • The 28 day grace period to file an application for further leave to remain after leave has expired has been reduced to 14 days and any application will be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The main change introduced in April 2017 is that, from 6 April 2017, an immigration skills surcharge is payable by sponsors in respect of each skilled migrant they sponsor under the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) categories.  Failure to pay means that the Tier 2 application will be refused.  The charge applies to the sponsor and not the individual.  Therefore if the charge has been paid by a sponsor in relation to an individual who subsequently seeks to change sponsor, the new sponsor will also be required to pay the charge.

There are a number of exemptions where the charge is not payable, including:

  • In respect of certain graduate trainees, those in certain PhD level occupations and those seeking to vary existing leave in the UK as a student.
  • Where a skilled worker has leave to remain in the UK as a skilled worker at the time the regulations came into force.
  • When a sponsor assigns a certificate of sponsorship to a worker who was already in the UK as a skilled worker at the time the regulations came into force and subsequently seeks to extend or vary their leave, whether by changing employer or otherwise.

A summary of some of the other changes that were implemented in April 2017 are:

  • A further increase of the minimum salary threshold for experienced workers in the Tier 2 (General) category (to £30,000).  The minimum for new entrants remains the same (£20,800 per year).  The minimum for high earners (where there is an exemption from conducting a resident labour market test as part of the application process) will increase to £159,600 per year.
  • The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Short Term Staff category has closed to new applicants.
  • The requirement for an intra-company transferee to work for a related overseas company for a year no longer applies to those earning £73,900 or more a year.
  • The salary requirement for intra-company transferees wishing to extend their visa for up to 9 years has been reduced to £120,000.
  • Tier 2 (General) applicants for some roles in the education, health and social care sectors must provide criminal record certificates (as must any adult dependents).

The current exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge for Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) migrants has ceased, so the obligation to pay the surcharge (of £200 per year of leave) now extends to this subcategory.