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Changes to the UK Immigration Rules due to come into force in April 2015

26 March 2015 #Employment


UK Visas & Immigration ("UKVI") has recently announced a number of changes to the UK's immigration rules, most of which will take effect from 6 April 2015 and apply to new applications or extensions made on or after that date. Existing visas and applications submitted prior to 6 April will be subject to the rules currently in place.

Below is a summary of the changes which will impact employers:

Tier 2 – sponsored workers

  • The minimum salary rates will increase as they do each April (set out in the table below), which means that employers who assign a COS to an employee or new recruit on or after 6 April 2015 need to check that their salary is still at the appropriate level. If a resident labour market test has been carried out employers also need to check that the role has been advertised at the appropriate salary for this to be valid.
  • The 12 month cooling off period will be removed for those on Tier 2 visas issued for up to 3 months. This will allow employers to transfer employees to the UK for a short assignment without invoking the cooling off period which could prevent them from returning to the UK for a longer assignment at a later date.
  • Whilst the Tier 2 (General) yearly cap of 20,700 remains the same, more restricted certificates of sponsorship can be allocated in April 2015 than other months as this is typically when the most applications are made. Any spare certificates that are not allocated can still be rolled over to the following month.

Visa Category

Criteria/sub-category

Current Threshold

New Threshold

Tier 2 (General)

Jobs which qualify for Tier 2 (General)

£20,500

£20,800

Tier 2 (General)

Jobs which are exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus

£71,600

£72,500

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer)

Short term staff, skills transfer and graduate trainee categories

£24,500

 

£24,800

 

Tier 2 (ICT)

Long term staff category

£41,400

£41,500

Tier 2

Jobs which are exempt from the Tier 2 (General) annual limit, the 12-month cooling off period and/or the resident labour market test or where the applicant can stay for 9 years under Tier 2 (ICT)

£153,500

£155,300

 NHS Surcharge

  • For most visa applications made on or after 6 April 2015 where the visa applicant and their family is coming to the UK for more than 6 months (or extending their stay), a new NHS Surcharge will apply, although it will not apply to New Zealand/Australian nationals or  Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer applicants/their dependants. The surcharge, payable  upfront at the time of the visa application, will be £200 per applicant (£150 for Tier 4 students) for each year of the issued visa.  This will still be due even where comprehensive medical insurance is held. Employers will need to decide whether they will offer to pick up the cost of this surcharge.

Changes to the way visas are issued

  • The entry clearance application process will change for all visa applicants who are applying for a visa of more than 6 months from outside the UK.  Between now and July 2015 the UK will be rolling out a new process whereby a successful visa applicant will be issued with a decision letter and their passport will be endorsed with a 30 day temporary visa running from their notified date of travel which permits them to enter the UK. They will have to collect their Biometric Identity Document (BID) from a specified Post Office within 10 days of their arrival in the UK, otherwise the visa may be cancelled.
  • This additional hurdle in the visa application process will mean that employers may need to reconsider their right to work checking processes. Employers need to check every employee’s right to work before they start and so employers will need to either require employees to collect their BID before they start work or take a copy of their temporary visa and also their original BID once collected.

Visitor visas

From 24 April 2015 new rules on visitor visas will be in force. These will condense the existing visitor visa routes into 4 routes, namely visit (standard), marriage/civil partnership, permitted paid engagements and transits. Visit (standard) will incorporate the current business visitor and tourist visa categories so someone coming for both business and tourism can carry out both activities under one visa. The permitted activities which visitors can perform will also be extended; new activities include:

  • Carrying out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days for a registered charity; and
  • Delivering training to UK based employees of a multinational company, where the training is part of a contract to deliver global training to the international offices.

Other changes

  • The list of the approved English language tests which applicants must pass for certain types of visa applications will change substantially from 6 April 2015 – the new list can be found here. Applicants should ensure that, if they sit a test after 6 April 2015, it appears on this list. If an applicant has passed a test before 6 April 2015 they can rely on this in a visa application provided this is made before 5 November 2015. 
  • UK visa application fees will increase from 6 April 2015. A full list of the fees can be found here.
  • From 6 April 2015 the Tier 1 (General) route will be closed to extension applications. Holders of Tier 1 (General) visas will still be permitted to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK until 6 April 2018 if they qualify.
Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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