Last year we blogged about the £35,000 earnings threshold for Tier 2 migrants wishing to apply to settle in the UK. This change is due to come into force from 6 April this year and will apply to all non-EEA migrants who came to the UK on a Tier 2 visa after 6 April 2011, unless they have worked in an occupation on the shortage occupation list.
The maximum amount of time that someone can remain in the UK on a Tier 2 visa is 6 years, although an application for settlement (also called indefinite leave to remain) can be made after 5 years as long as the applicant hasn’t spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 month period.
Under this new policy, if a Tier 2 migrant fails to demonstrate earnings of £35,000 or more they will be denied settlement and will have to leave the UK once their visa expires.
The £35,000 threshold has faced criticism from some quarters and over 100,000 people have signed a petition to scrap the policy. In response to the petition the Government said that the figure was set on the recommendation of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and referred to the fact that £35,000 was equivalent to the median pay of the UK population in skilled jobs which qualified for Tier 2 at the time of the MAC’s consultation.
In practice, however, the introduction of the new requirement is likely to cause difficulties for a number of Tier 2 migrant workers who are nearing the 6 year cut off point but are still paid a much lower salary. Even now, the minimum salary requirement for a Tier 2 (General) visa is £20,800 or, if higher, the minimum prescribed by the Codes of Practice.
Looking ahead, employers recruiting skilled migrant workers from outside Europe should consider at the outset whether the business and/or the individual may want to apply to remain in the UK after 5 years. If so, the £35,000 minimum earnings threshold for settlement will need to be factored into decisions over pay.