UK immigration changes to benefit higher earners

Migration to the UK for high earning professionals is set to become easier, thanks to changes planned by the Home Office.

Following the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on its review of the Tier 2 visa category in January 2016, the Home Office has now revealed the changes it will introduce for the Tier 2 visa route. And according to immigration law specialist Kingsley Napley, these show higher earning professionals will now face fewer restrictions to UK entry or re-entry than previously had been expected.

‘More cautious approach’

Nicholas Rollason, (pictured,) Kingsley Napley partner and head of business immigration, said that despite fears that the restrictive measures recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) would be followed in their entirety, the UK Government in fact had adopted a more cautious approach in some areas, and had evidently decided not to introduce some of the changes that would have been most damaging to businesses.

“The devil will be in the detail with these measures, but it will be a relief to those employers running graduate recruitment schemes that the government has decided not to introduce any restrictions which would jeopardise these schemes,” said Rollason.

“Furthermore, the reduction in the high earner threshold to £120,000 will remove more migrants from the annual limit on Tier 2 (General) places, leaving more available for those earning lower salaries.”

Easier sponsorship transfers seen

With respect to those Tier 2 (ICT) migrants earning more than £73,900, the UK Government’s decision to remove the requirement for 12 months employment overseas “will make it easier for sponsors to transfer these highly skilled migrants from its overseas offices to take up work in the UK at short notice”, Rollason added.

The changes are set to be introduced in two stages, with the first tranche to take effect in the autumn of 2016 (most likely with the October rules changes), and the second tranche to be implemented with the April 2017 rules changes, Kingsley Napley noted in a briefing document.

The Autumn 2016 changes include:

* an increase in the Tier 2 (General) minimum salary threshold to £25,000 for experienced workers, though the minimum threshold of £20,800 for new entrants will remain. The salary threshold for the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term route is being raised to £30,000.

* a reduction in the minimum annual salary requirement for the Tier 2 ICT (Graduate Trainee) category, to £23,000 from £24,800, while the number of places available to companies will rise to 20 from five per year.

In the April 2017 changes, high-earners’ salary for Long-Term ICTs will be reduced to £120,000 from £155,300. The one year experience requirement in the Long-Term ICT category will be removed where the applicant is earning more than £73,900.

There will also be be a waiver of the  so-called Resident Labour Market Test, and prioritisation for Tier 2 (General) places, where the visa grants are in support of the relocation of a high-value business to the UK or, potentially, an inward investment project.

The MAC’s recommendation of a 24 month period of employment to qualify for Tier 2 (ICT) will also not be introduced.

According to Rollason, some questions still remain. In particular, he said, it isn’t clear whether Tier 2 (ICT) migrants who need to come to the UK for short periods will continue to be exempt from a 12-month “cooling off period” if they are coming to the UK for three months or less, or whether this minimum period will be increased if the cooling off period will continue to apply, once the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term route is closed in April 2017.

“Currently, Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term migrants are able to return to the UK under the Tier 2 (ICT) Long Term route without first having to spend 12 months overseas (known as the 12 month cooling off period),” he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Robinson
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