24 June 2015 #Immigration
Immigration issues have been in the news again this week following comments from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) that up to 3,365 nurses currently working in the UK may be forced to leave after upcoming changes are made to the immigration rules.
Under the new rules announced in early 2012, skilled migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will have to leave the UK if they are not earning at least £35,000 after 6 years. The RCN says this will force many nurses to return to their home countries, leaving health services with nothing to show for the millions of pounds spent on recruiting them.
The proposal to introduce a £35,000 minimum earnings threshold to those applying for settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain or ILR) will apply to those eligible to apply for settlement from April 2016. Those in specified PhD level and in shortage occupations will be exempt, though.
Currently, migrants wishing to work on a Tier 2 (skilled worker) visa must have a job that is paid at least £20,800 or the appropriate salary rate set out in the UKVI Standard Occupational Classification Codes, if higher. It may be that the additional requirement for salaries to rise to £35,000 over a period of 6 years will only affect a relatively small proportion of skilled migrant workers. However, there is criticism that it will impact most significantly on those working in sectors such as health and the arts, where there average salary is lower.
The reforms are part of the Government’s wider plans to cut net migration to the UK – a drive that is likely to bring about further changes to the immigration system over the next few years.
Figures published in May showed that migrants from outside the EEA coming to work rose by 24,000 in 2014, an increase which we saw reflected in the news that the cap on the number of Tier 2 visas has been reached this month for the first time since its introduction in 2011. If numbers continue to rise, it seems unlikely that the Government will act upon calls to relax the requirements for migrants wishing to apply for settlement.
Employers who sponsor Tier 2 (General) migrants who may not be eligible for settlement after the rules change will have to decide whether they want to offer them a higher salary to ensure that they can continue to work in the UK, if no other visa routes are available. Equally, Tier 2 (General) migrants who are paid less than £35,000 per annum and who can apply for settlement before the rules change should do so to avoid being forced to leave the UK.
If you have employees on Tier 2 (General) visas, or if you are considering recruiting staff from overseas, Clarkslegal’s immigration team can provide up to date advice and assistance to help you navigate this fast-changing area of law.