Changes to the UK Business Immigration System

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21 February 2011

The government has published its proposed changes to Tier 2 of the points-based immigration scheme. In addition to the imminent closure of parts of Tier 1, these changes, which are expected to come into force on 6 April 2011, will make it harder for businesses to employ overseas nationals in the UK.

In relation to Tier 2 (general), the key changes are likely to be:

  • Only a job corresponding to a graduate level occupation or on the shortage occupation list will be eligible within Tier 2 (general)
  • The language requirement is being raised from basic to intermediate English
  • There will be a greater focus on the salary of the role
  • There will be a cap of 20,700 Certificates of Sponsorship in the year commencing 6 April 2011
  • Tier 2 (general) applications will be assessed on a monthly basis and allocated to sponsors in accordance with a monthly quota. Therefore applications which meet the criteria are not guaranteed to be successful. There is no certainty that employers will be able to sponsor Tier 2 (general) workers
  • The rules will be relaxed for vacancies that attract a salary of over £150,000.
  • In relation to Tier 2 (Intra-company transfers), the key changes are likely to be:

As for the Tier 2 (general) route, the job will have to be a graduate level occupation

  • For those paid between £24,000 and £40,000, a maximum of 12 months' leave will be granted after which the individual must leave the UK for a period of 12 months
  • Where the salary is over £40,000, leave will be granted for up to 3 years with the possibility of an additional extension.

There are transitional arrangements which mean that the new requirements will not apply to migrants already in the UK with leave granted under Tier 1 or Tier 2 before 6 April 2011. Therefore, employers will have to act very quickly if they want to bring individuals into the UK under the current regime.

If the changes come into effect as currently proposed, businesses will find it much more difficult to employ overseas nationals. Applications will not be guaranteed, they will be subject to more detailed rules and scrutiny, and problems may have business critical impact.

Employers should assess their existing arrangements and any future recruitment needs as soon as possible and consider whether they need to take action while the current regime remains in force. Given the limited time frame and the fact that other employers may well be considering taking action, time will be of the essence.

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