Tier 2 Visa Changes and other UK immigration changes from 6 April

Major UK immigration changes took effect on 6 April 2015 with the Tier 2 visa category set for substantial changes. The most significant change is the introduction of an NHS surcharge for most UK visa applicants.

New NHS Health Surcharge and other Application fees

From 6 April 2015 UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) increased visa application fees across the board. The Government fees for Tier 2 visa and sponsorship applications can be accessed here.

From April 6 there will also be an NHS surcharge applicable to immigrants in many visa categories. Non-EEA migrants entering the UK for a period over six months and those currently in the country seeking to extend their stay will be subjected to the new NHS surcharge scheme.

The surcharge is a £200 annual fee per person (£150 for students) and the amount is payable when lodging an application.

There are a number of exemptions from the NHS health surcharge. Those that do not have to pay the surcharge include nationals of the EU and nationals of Australia and New Zealand, migrants applying under the Tier 2 intra company transfer category and those applying for indefinite leave to remain.

Visitors, inclusive of those coming to Britain with a business visit visa visiting for a period of six months or less will also be exempt from the surcharge. However, they would be required to pay 150% of the cost of any treatment received from the NHS.

Tier 2 Visa Minimum salary thresholds

The salary threshold is increased annually and thresholds relating to individual occupations, as outlined in the Codes of Practice, have also increased in the majority of cases. The key revised income thresholds are as follows:

  • Minimum salary threshold for all Tier 2 General employees increased from £20,500 to £20,800. In practice many occupations will have a higher salary threshold anyway.
  • Minimum salary threshold for those whose jobs that are exempt from being advertised on Jobcentre plus will increase from £71,600 to £72,500
  • High earner threshold changed from £153,500 to £155,300
  • For Tier 2 ICT employees whose jobs who come under Short Term Staff, Skills Transfer or Graduate Training category the minimum salary threshold was increased from £24,500 to £24,800
  • For Tier 2 ICT employees who come under the "Long Term Staff" category the minimum salary threshold increased from £41,000 to £41,500

Tier 2 Visa Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship Changes

If you are applying to employ someone from abroad you need to apply for what is called a Restricted certificate of sponsorship (RCos) as part of the Tier 2 visa application. If you do not currently have any Restricted Cos you will need to apply for these and wait for the monthly allocation. Every application is scored in accordance with the UK's Points Based System.

Restricted certificates are issued to:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers who are currently abroad and will have a salary less than £153,500 per year
  • The family members (dependants) of someone in the UK who was last granted a Tier 4 visa

Application of restricted certificates must be done through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). You will be given access to this if you are a company that has been granted a Tier 2 sponsorship licence.

Sponsors should be clear that any new Tier 2 visa applications will be assessed based on any changes to the immigration rules that came into effect on April 6. Sponsors will need to submit RCoS applications bearing in mind the new minimum salary thresholds and the new Codes of Practice.

Tier 2 Cooling-off period

Prior to the changes, a foreigner arriving in Britain on a Tier 2 Visa and who either leaves the country upon completion of an assignment or whose visa expires without the possibility of renewal, would have to wait 12 months to apply for a new Tier 2 Visa, known as the 'cooling-off period'.

However, new legislation from April 6 means greater flexibility for UK businesses; Companies are permitted to bring in a foreign national more than once per year on short assignments of less than three months, without being required to come under the 12-month cooling-off period.

UK Shortage occupation list

Occupations included on the shortage occupation list are exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test.

One shortage occupation list covers the whole of the UK, plus Scotland, with the addition of paramedics applied to the UK list. Changes to these lists, as specified by gov.uk, include:

  • Changes to graduate occupations in the health sector for both the UK and Scotland list, including the addition of paramedics to the UK list;
  • Changes to the existing entry on the UK list for overhead lines workers in the energy industry; and
  • The re-classification of some existing entries.

workpermit.com can help with a Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship Licence and Compliance

If you are an employer looking to hire professional level people in the UK from outside the EU we can help. We can help you with a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence and help with compliance. Call 0344 991 9222 for further details.