Immigration Rule changes last week implement the first of 2 phases of changes to Tier 2 of the Points-Based system for work visas. Most changes take effect on 24 November 2016. The second phase will take effect in April 2017.
The statement of changes is an example of new rules/changes to rules brought in by the Government without the need for Parliament to approve them. Nobody has suggested (thus far) that the Government has acted outside of its authority here, in contrast to the court action over the article 50 notice for Brexit.
Tier 2 (General) – this category is for migrant workers with an offer of a skilled job from a licensed employer which cannot be filled by a resident worker. It is subject to an annual cap on the number of visas that can be issued.
The salary threshold for experienced workers to meet before they can be granted a visa has been increased from £20,800 to £25,000 pa (but not for new entrants to that job role where the threshold is held at £20,800 pa). The Government intends to increase the threshold again to £30,000 in April 2017.
An exemption from this salary increase will apply for nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin. Note this exemption will end in July 2019.
Nurses are retained on the Shortage Occupation List but a change is being made to require a Resident Labour Market Test to be carried out before a nurse can apply for a work visa. This means there will be a delay to being able to employ the overseas nurse whilst advertising is carried out to see if there is somebody suitable resident in the UK.
Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) – this category supports inward investment by allowing multinational employers to transfer key company personnel from overseas to their UK branch.
The salary threshold for short term ICT applicants has been increased from £24,800 pa to £30,000 pa for new applicants. A transitional arrangement applies for those already in the UK under the short term route.
The Skills Transfer visa has been closed to new applicants.
The Government says these changes are, in part, designed to influence employer behaviour by incentivising businesses to reduce their reliance on migrant workers. That much is clear. The government’s policy is to try to discourage workers from outside the EU to come to work in the UK. It has in mind its political target to cut net migration to 6 figures. It looks to help get to this target through regular changes to the immigration rules making it harder for migrants to achieve the points necessary to obtain a visa. Points based visas are an easy target for the government.