UK immigration - change and more change
A raft of new changes were introduced in April 2012. What are the common questions being asked by the compliant but wary sponsor?
Intra Company Transfers ("ICT")
The ICT route has been radically overhauled in recent years. Broadly this category (Tier 2 ICT) is split into four different routes:
- Long-term staff - for established, skilled employees earning over £40,000 being transferred to the UK branch of their organisation for more than 12 months.
- Short-term staff - for established, skilled employees earning over £24,000 being transferred to the UK branch of their organisation for 12 months or less.
- Graduate trainee - this route allows the transfer of recent graduate employees to a UK branch of the same organisation, as part of a structured graduate training programme.
- Skills transfer - this route allows the transfer of new graduate employees to a UK branch of the same organisation to learn the skills and knowledge required to perform their job overseas, or to impart their specialist skills or knowledge to the UK workforce.
These categories have not changed in recent times, but sponsors will need to be wary of several key issues:
- Level of salary
The salary level (including certain acceptable allowances) determines whether the long term or short term ICT category is appropriate. However, sponsors will also need to ensure that the salary meets the minimum stipulated by the UKBA for the role on offer.
- The cooling off period
Migrant workers who have held leave to remain or enter under Tier 2 are not able to reapply for entry under the Tier 2 category for 12 months from the date their previous visa/leave expired. This has significant ramifications for future planning. For example, if an assignee wishes to remain in the UK indefinitely and/or you wish the role to become permanent, you will not be able to switch them into the appropriate route (Tier 2 General) without them being outside the UK for one year from the date of expiry of their existing visa/leave NOT the date of their departure from the UK. It also may mean that you cannot easily recruit a Tier 2 migrant who is working in the UK for another sponsor.
This category no longer leads to permanent residence in the UK. Do not consider this route if your assignee has expressed an interest in remaining in the UK permanently.
What about new hires to our organisation?
There have been some interesting changes to the resident labour market test ("RLMT") introduced for sponsors recruiting permanent hires to their organisations exempting roles commanding salaries of £70,000 and above from being advertised with Job Centre Plus and waiving the RLMT for the direct recruitment of students who are in the UK and who obtained a degree level qualification from a licensed university in the UK.
These changes have also been accompanied by the skills level for jobs listed in the Codes of Practice being raised to NFQ6+ (for both the ICT and General categories). This means that some roles you may have come to depend upon in recent years have disappeared for new applications, so please ensure that you continue to check the most up to date listings before you issue a Certificate of Sponsorship.
What are our compliance obligations?
Underpinning these changes are the ongoing requirements for employers to comply with both illegal working registration and their duties and obligations as a sponsor. This includes ensuring that you are conducting the appropriate right to work checks for all your new employees and sponsored workers, tracking expiry dates, taking copies of documents and ensuring these are signed, certified and dated and conducting annual checks on all migrant workers who have started with you since February 2008.
As a sponsor you are also required to keep the UKBA informed of any changes to your migrant workers’ circumstances.
This is a brief overview of what we consider to be the most significant changes to the Tier 2 category which employers and sponsors need to be familiar with. This is not everything you need to know and we are very happy to provide support where needed.
We are already seeing cases where the wrong category of immigration selected at an early stage has had long term implications for the individual and business. There is much pressure on employers and sponsors to get this right first time so don't get caught out!
For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please contact Sarah Buttler on +44 (0)20 3051 5711.