UK News

International Assignments: Important changes to the UK's points-based immigration system

September 2009

The UK Border Agency (“UKBA”) has published changes to the points-based immigration system together with amended guidance for employers and education providers who sponsor migrant workers and students.

UKBA’s changes

Changes affecting Tier 2 skilled workers include:

  • exemption from the current obligation to advertise in Jobcentre Plus, a government-fund employment agency, if the vacancy is for a director, chief executive or legal partner and the salary package for the job is £130,000 or more or where stock exchange disclosure requirements apply; and
  • temporary reduction in a migrant’s salary and/or working hours to avoid redundancies will not require a change of employment action, provided certain conditions are met.  (A change of employment action involves the employer issuing a new certificate of sponsorship and the migrant making a fresh application for leave).

Changes affecting Tier 2 intra-company transferees include:

  • a requirement that intra-company transferees must not directly replace settled workers; and
  • an extension of the required minimum period of prior employment outside the UK with the sponsoring employer where the migrant has had a period of maternity, paternity or adoptive leave.

Future developments

The government has accepted the Migration Advisory Committee’s (“MAC”) recommendations to restrict the flow of skilled migrants from outside Europe into the UK.  The recommendations were made in the light of the current economic climate.

From next year:

  • all jobs must be advertised in Jobcentre plus for four weeks rather than two weeks before seeking to employ workers from outside Europe. 
  • intra-company transferees will have to have worked for their employer outside the UK for at least a year (rather than the current six months).
  • the minimum salary required to qualify as a skilled migrant will rise from £17,000 to £20,000.

All these changes attempt to meet employers’ business needs while providing some protection to settled workers at a time of rising unemployment.


Significant changes to sponsored migrants’ terms and conditions of employment can trigger a reporting obligation to UKBA within 10 days and may require a new tier 2 application.  Failure to take adequate steps to comply can lead to the migrant’s tier 2 permission being revoked, their removal from the UK and an employer penalty of up to £10,000.  Professional advice should be sought in cases of doubt.


Guidance for Sponsor applications

For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please contact Colina Greenway ( on +44 (0) 203 051 5711.


Content is for general information purposes only.  The information provided is not intended to be comprehensive and it does not constitute or contain legal or other advice.  If you require assistance in relation to any issue, please seek specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances.