No changes to our fees but Health surcharge doubles (Read more)
We are pleased to advise you that our fees will remain unchanged for the 2019 calendar year. Although some elements of our work have become more complicated our determination to provide an excellent service at competitive prices remains a hugely important driver for us as a business.
Home Office charges usually change on 6 April, and are not made public until the very last minute, but there has been one major change: the Health Surcharge for Tier 2 applicants doubled on 8 January, from £200 p.a. to £400 p.a.
The Home Office have also recently opened a number of UKVCAS centres across the UK. These centres are managed by the Home Office’s commercial partner, Sopra Steria and are replacing the Premium Service Centres, which previously allowed applicants to receive a decision on the same day.
Appointments at the Premium Lounge in Central London are usually available at short notice but attract an additional payment of at least £200 per applicant. There are a further six core locations in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow and Manchester offering appointments during office hours, but applicants may have to wait up to 24 hours (or slightly longer in some cases) for a decision. Appointments are also available at evenings, weekends and at short notice (on the day/next day) with additional prices starting from £100.
Sopra Steria are also offering enhanced user-pay services in 50 local libraries, with prices starting from £60. In these locations, applicants can submit their biometrics and upload copies of their documents, rather than sending originals to the Home Office. Please note though that even if the applicants retain their passports after visiting one of these centres, they must not travel until they have received a decision on their application.
Brexit will no doubt have a great impact on the business immigration sector.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s long-awaited report on the effect of European migration to the UK has been published last month.
According to reports, the MAC does not see ‘compelling reasons’ to give EU citizens any preferential treatment over non-EU citizens. Recommendations are made largely to loosen the Tier 2 system itself and have a more open policy like in countries such as Canada.
Below is a summary of the key recommendations for work migration post-Brexit
1. Making it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers.
2. No preference for EU citizens
3. Abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General).
4. Tier 2 (General) to be open to all jobs at RQF3 and above.
5. Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2.
6. Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.
7. Consider abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test. If not abolished, extend the numbers of migrants who are exempt through lowering the salary required for exemption.
However, if all foreign migrants are bought into the same system then employers will need to become extra vigilant as risk of civil penalties faced by employers will increase significantly.
Hiring costs will increase and if medium skilled jobs are also included as more businesses will require to get on the sponsor licence register meaning increased administrative burden on organisations and a significant effect on businesses which have previously not had any engagement with the wonderful immigration system.
Croatians will have unrestricted access to the UK jobs market from the end of June, the Home Office has confirmed.
Currently Croatian nationals seeking employment must be sponsored by their employer before they can apply for an Accession Worker Card (aka Purple Card) which usually requires a resident test to be completed prior to a CoS being issued.
From the end of June however, their rights to work in Britain will fall in line with other EU citizens.
The Home Office could have extended the restricted access by a further two years but, with fewer than 10,000 Croatians living in the UK, they have conceded that there is not enough evidence to extend the controls any further.
Demand for Restricted CoS has been far outstripping availability since December 2017.
Each month the Home Office sponsor panel meets on 11th to allocate restricted CoS (needed for out-of-country Tier 2 applicants). The monthly availability reduces throughout the year, from 2200 in April down to just 1000 in March.
In December 2017 the demand exceeded supply for the first time in three years, but to such an extent that only those earning in excess of £55,000 p.a. were successful. In January and February, the situation was not much better and in March it was worse again.
Fortunately, April signals the start of a new CoS year so the monthly allocation should go back up to at least 2200. This may still not be enough for those on lower salaries who may have to try yet again in May. Very frustrating for all concerned.
The Home Office is conscious of the changing nature of employment and remunerations associated with these changes. However, the new rate of pay must continue to meet the appropriate rate requirements. The current minimum gross salary (including any guaranteed bonuses and/or permitted allowances) that a Tier 2 (General) migrant must receive is £30,000 per year* or the appropriate rate of pay for the job as stated in the codes of practice. The minimum Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) salary thresholds are £41,500 for long term staff and £23,000 for graduate trainees. If a sponsor seeks to pay a sponsored migrant below these rates, they will forfeit the right to continue to sponsor them.
The Home Office has modified its guidance to reflect changes and add in exceptions to the rules. These exceptions being:
• Where a migrant is required to undertake professional examinations to assess whether their skills meet UK standards before starting work. For example, where the passing of a Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) examination is a regulatory requirement of the role;
• Where the reduction is due to the migrant taking a period of maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave;
• When a migrant is on long-term sick leave for more than one continuous calendar month;
• Where a doctor is taking (up to six months) authorised unpaid leave to assist in the Ebola crisis; and
• Where the salary paid to a Tier 2 (ICT) migrant has been reduced due to them not being physically present in the UK.
Therefore, if a sponsored migrant wishes to take a long period of unpaid leave, for example a sabbatical, the employer must cease their sponsorship of the migrant and report the change in circumstances to the Home Office via the Sponsor Management System (SMS).
Recent reports have suggested that the government wishes to the double, the already controversial, Immigration Health Surcharge. The main rate will go from £200 a year to £400 a year, with students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme paying £300 (up from £150).
Once this increase takes effect, the IHS cost to a family of four securing the right to reside in the UK for 5 years will amount to £8,000.
Here is to hoping that those wishing to relocate are given a few weeks’ notice so that they can start saving up!
Tier 2 Migrants will no longer require to have been continuously employed throughout the 5-year qualifying period to be eligible for settlement.
Previously, the rules stated only breaks of employment less than 60 days could be disregarded.
However, since the Home Office is notoriously slow in issuing curtailment notifications, this may lead to some Tier 2 holders gaining additional time to change employment within the UK whilst still qualifying for indefinite leave to remain.
This will definitely bring a sigh of relief to many.
There has been some confusion with regard to getting refunds for Immigration Health Surcharge payments when a second application is submitted across a time period when an IHS charge has already been paid.
Our understanding initially was that the person or company who paid the first IHS payment would receive a refund for each complete six months period that was not used due to a new visa being issued (and therefore new IHS being paid).
However it now appears that the refund is made to the person or company paying the IHS with a new application and the original payer gets nothing back.
A number of small changes to Tier 2 will be introduced in the Autumn as part of the UKVI’s response to the MAC Report late last year.
Here is a brief summary of the main points likely to affect our clients:
• The minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (General) “experienced workers” goes up to £25,000 in October and to £30,000 p.a. next April 2017. In reality most NQF Level 6 roles have a minimum salary requirement above £30k anyway.
• The threshold for Tier 2 (ICT) short-term goes up from £24,800 p.a. to £30,000 p.a. prior to the sub-category being closed in April 2017.
• The threshold for Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee goes down from £24,800 p.a. to £23,000 p.a.
• The Tier 2 (ICT) Skills transfer sub-category will be closed.
• Tier 2 (ICT) applicants will become liable for the Immigration Health Surcharge
On 24 November 2016 the following changes will come into effect.
• The salary threshold for experienced workers (ie: those aged 26 or more, or anyone applying for a period of more than three years) has been increased to 25,000 p.a. except for a few specialist roles such as nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in certain subjects.
• The salary must also comply with the relevant SOC Code which is usually more than £25k anyway.
• Those extending their Tier 2 (General) visas between now and next April 5th, are excused this requirement, but from that date, the limit increases further to £30,000 p.a. or the SOC amount, whichever is the higher.
• Applicants sponsored in graduate training programmes can now change occupation – ie SOC Code – within the programme without the need for a resident test and new application.
• Nurses continue to be a shortage occupation but now a resident labour market test must be carried out before a CoS can be issued.