UNITED KINGDOM – Changes to the Immigration Rules from April 2014
The UK Home Office announced in March a number of changes to the Immigration Rules, most of which will take effect on 6 April. The changes include Tier 2 grants of leave of up to five years, up from the current three year maximum, as well as revised minimum salary levels and Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes.
In February the Home Office also announced increases of 4% for the majority of visa application fees, which will also take effect on 6 April.
Changes to Tier 2 of the Points-based System
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) and Tier 2 (General) applicants may be granted up to 5 years’ leave (rather than up to 3 years) on payment of a higher fee.
- Annual updates are being made to the minimum salary thresholds and appropriate salary rates for individual occupations. These rates also apply to settlement applications by work permit holders. Some of the revised salary thresholds are as follows:
- Tier 2 (General): £20,500
- Tier 2 (General – RLMT exempt): £153,500
- Tier 2 (ICT - Short Term Staff): £24,500
- Tier 2 (ICT - Long Term Staff): £41,000
- Tier 2 (ICT - up to nine years): £153,500
- The following SOC codes will be replaced with multiple options corresponding with the various job levels within those occupations:
- 2123 Electrical engineers
- 2211 Medical practitioners
- 2213 Pharmacists
- 2219 Health professionals not elsewhere classified
- 2231 Nurses
- 2442 Social workers
- The transition to the new salary rates means that UKVI will provide additional time for submitting Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship applications (RCoS) in April and May 2014.
- Applications for the April allocation period must be submitted between 6 April to 16 April 2014. Decisions on these applications will be made on 18 April 2014.
- Applications for the May allocation period can be submitted between 17 April to 5 May 2014. Decisions on these applications will be made on 12 May 2014.
- The annual allocation of non-restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) is due to expire as expected on 5 April. Employers intending to sponsor new migrant workers in the coming period are advised to request a renewal of their annual CoS allocation before that date.
The Home Office has announced that there will be a general increase to ‘the majority’ of fees of 4% from 6 April 2014. This includes short term visit visas. There are a number of exceptions to this 4% increase which have been titled ‘targeted increases’.
TB Testing Extended to More Countries
As of 31 March, pre-application tuberculosis (TB) screening is required for those travelling to the UK for more than six months from seven more countries: Algeria, Belarus, Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.
The UK’s pre-entry tuberculosis screening programme was initially announced in May 2012, in response to increasing numbers of cases of TB in the UK. The scheme is gradually rolling out to sixty-seven countries with a high incidence of the disease.
- Expansion of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category to include those in the digital sector, as well as other minor changes to Tier 1.
- Minor Changes to settlement rights for dependents under the Points Based System (PBS).
- Updated maintenance funds thresholds for PBS migrants and their dependents (effective 1 July 2014).
- The introduction of a new visa regime for all visitors from Venezuela, effective 5 May 2014.
- Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates added to the list of countries whose nationals benefit from different documentary requirements.
- The Home Office will no longer grant B-rated licences for applications under Tier 2 and Tier 5.
- Note the new Tier 2 grant of leave of up to five years.
- Ensure that CoS and RCoS requests are submitted in good time, bearing in mind the changes to salaries and SOC codes.
- Ensure any applicant from the above countries intending to stay in the UK for more than six months undergoes pre-application TB screening at an approved clinic.
- Note the new salary and maintenance fund thresholds, the new application fees and the other changes.