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Immigration Update: Tier 2 reviewed

17 August 2015

Tier 2 cap reached and other immigration news

In June 2015, the number of applications submitted to UKVI for a restricted certificate of sponsorship exceeded the monthly allocation for the first time since the Tier2 cap was introduced in 2011. Whereas an application for a restricted COS requires 32 points to be valid, only applicants scoring 50 points or more were successful. The cap was reached again in July, when the minimum points needed was 45.

The roles affected by the cap being reached are those that are not on the shortage occupation list or at PhD level, where the maximum number of points that can be achieved for the type of job is 30. The balance of points is earned from the role’s salary, which in all cases must be at least £20,800. In June, the minimum salary needed to obtain a restricted COS was £46,000 – which is almost £25,000 more than usual. This meant that employers were unable to fill critical, albeit lower paid, roles.

In August, the cap was reached again and the minimum number of points needed to be allocated a restricted COS was 36. It should not be assumed that the monthly allocations will soon go back to normal; after all, there is often a lull in recruitment in the summer months.

Employers who are looking to recruit staff from overseas are encouraged to plan carefully and in good time, and to have an alternative resource available to cover any gaps in their workforce pending the allocation of a restricted COS.

MAC review of Tier 2 – have your say

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been asked by the government to review Tier 2 and make recommendations about how the UK can further reduce economic migration. The MAC will review the minimum salary thresholds as well as considering:

  • Restricting the scope of Tier 2 (General) to genuine skills shortages and highly specialist experts only;
  • Limiting the length of time that an occupation can be on the shortage occupation list;
  • Introducing a skills levy on employers who recruit under Tier 2 and using the money to fund apprenticeships in the UK;
  • Restricting the automatic right of dependant family members to work in the UK;
  • Tightening the intra-company transfer rules and whether ICT workers should pay the NHS surcharge.

Employers who hold a Tier 2 licence can submit their views and evidence to the MAC until 25 September 2015.

Earn a minimum salary of £35,000 to settle in the UK

The Home Office has announced that, with effect from 6 April 2016, Tier 2 migrants who wish to settle in the UK must earn a minimum of £35,000. This will apply to individuals who work under a Tier 2 (General), Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa. Those who do not meet the minimum threshold can extend their visa for another year, but after 6 years will be expected to leave the UK.

It is hard to miss the publicity that this decision has created, especially from the medical and education sectors who are concerned about the impact of this new rule on nurses and teachers who may be highly-qualified but do not meet the minimum salary requirements. The impact of this rule will be wide and affect many employers, as the government intends to reduce the number of migrants with indefinite leave to remain from 60,000 to 20,000.