Salary thresholds for experienced Tier 2 migrants will rise to £30,000 by April 2017

Employers need to plan now for immigration changes from this autumn

The government has announced significant changes to Tier 2 of the points based immigration system following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee. The changes will be introduced in two stages – autumn 2016 and April 2017.

Tier 2 (General)
The minimum salary required for ‘new entrants’ remains at £20,800, which includes employees under 26 years old or those switching from Tier 4 or from certain other immigration categories. But salary thresholds for sponsoring experienced workers will increase from £20,800 to £25,000 in autumn 2016, rising to £30,000 in April 2017. Job holders must earn at least this base salary.

Nurses, radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin will be exempt until July 2019 (this is aimed at avoiding a recruitment crisis in the healthcare and education sectors where jobs presently attract lower rates of pay). From this autumn, there will be additional points available under the immigration cap (introduced in April 2011 and reviewed annually) for migrants with these skills.

Nurses will remain on the shortage occupation list, however employers sponsoring nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will have to allow additional time and resources for recruitment as these workers are now subject to the resident labour market test (see guidance for employers on sponsoring Tier 2 workers). Jobs on the shortage occupation list are generally exempt.

Students switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 will not be subject to the immigration cap and will remain exempt from the resident labour market test. From this autumn, this category of sponsored workers can switch jobs within a company at the end of a training programme.

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)
The rules here are to be simplified: applicants will have to qualify under a single visa category. The skills transfer sub-category will close this autumn and the minimum salary required for transfers of less than 12 months will increase from £24,800 to £30,000. The short term transfer category will close altogether next April and a minimum salary threshold of £41,500 will then apply (the salary level for graduate trainees will be £23,000). Currently, short term transfers only need a salary of £24,800 so this will substantially cut the number of jobs eligible for sponsorship under this route.

The requirement for 12 months’ service prior to transfer will still apply in most cases but from next April jobs attracting a salary of £73,900 or more will not require any prior service. Employees with a salary over £120,000 will be able to remain in the UK for up to nine years (currently this applies to those with salaries above £155,300).

Fees and charges
From autumn 2016, all intra company transfer applicants will have to pay the immigration health surcharge and from April 2017, employers will have to pay an additional fee of £1,000 per migrant worker for each year of a visa. A lower fee of £364 will apply to charities and small employers and there will be some limited exemptions for highly qualified applicants.

The rise in both required salary levels and fees will have a twofold effect on employers: the number of roles eligible for sponsorship will be reduced and the costs of sponsorship will rise. This is in step with the government’s intention to increase business access to highly qualified migrants while restricting access for lower skilled migrants. This policy is also reflected in the provision of increased flexibility for sponsoring graduates and being able to keep them within a company at the end of a training programme.


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