UK immigration - changes to the Tier 2 visa category

10 May 2016

The UK Home Office in March 2016 announced certain reforms to the Tier 2 visa – the UK's skilled visa category, with the objective to reduce reliance on foreign workers, and protect job opportunities for UK residents.

The changes are put forward based on the recommendations of the Independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The first phase of changes will take place this autumn (2016) and the second will take effect from April 2017. The key changes include:

Increase in minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (General)

Salary thresholds for experienced workers will be increased to £25,000 in autumn 2016, and £30,000 in April 2017. Some health and education professionals (medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science) will be exempt from the higher threshold until July 2019. The minimum threshold for new entrants will remain at £20,800.

Single Tier 2 visa category (Intra-company transfer (ICT))

The current ICT transfer provisions are being simplified by requiring all ICT transferees to qualify under a single visa category, with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500. The exception to this is graduate trainees. The Tier 2 (Skills Transfer) category will be closed from autumn 2016. Tier 2 (Short Term) category will be closed from April 2017. From April 2017, all ICTs will be required to qualify under a single visa category.

Reduction in salary threshold for certain ICT workers

From April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for ICTs working in the UK for between 5 and 9 years will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000.

Levy of immigration skills charge

An immigration skills charge will be levied on Tier 2 employers at a rate of £1,000 per person per year from April 2017, with a rate of £364 for smaller businesses and charities, and exemptions for PhD occupations, Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) graduate trainees and Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2.

Foreign graduates

From autumn 2016, the number of Tier 2 ICT graduate trainee places available to each UK organisation will be increased from 5 to 20 each year, with the minimum salary threshold for this category being reduced from £24,800 to £23,000. Overseas graduates will be given extra weight in the Tier 2 general monthly allocation panel reviews and they will be able to switch roles within an organisation once they have secured a permanent job in the UK.

By Sue Kukadia, Santa Fe Immigration Services

For more information please contact Sue Kukadia, Group Director, Immigration Services, Santa Fe Immigration Services