Five costly immigration changes in April 2017

The headlines may be focused on the fact Article 50 will be triggered on 29 March, starting off the process towards Brexit, but just a few days later employers should also brace themselves for another set of changes to immigration rules.

These changes mean that from 6 April 2017, it will become far more costly to sponsor migrants from outside of the European Union under Tier 2 of the points-based system.

There are several important changes that take effect from April 2017, which will make it more expensive and administratively burdensome to sponsor non-EEA migrants.

These changes will affect all Tier 2 sponsors, but particularly those companies which transfer non-EEA nationals from overseas offices to the UK under the Intra-Company Transfer, or ICT, route.

1. Immigration Skills Charge

Employers wishing to sponsor non-EEA workers in the UK will have to pay a new Immigration Skills Charge of £364 for small or charitable employers or £1,000 for large employers.

For Home Office purposes, an organisation is regarded as a large employer if its annual turnover is in excess of £10.2 million, or if it has more than 50 employees.

2. Minimum salary threshold increases

The minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (General) sponsored workers over the age of 26 will increase to £30,000 per year (from £25,000), subject to a few exemptions.

This category is for migrant workers with an offer of a skilled job from a licensed employer which cannot be filled by a resident or EEA worker. On the plus side, the minimum salary threshold for new entrants remains at £20,800 per annum.

3. Resident labour market test

In most cases, before sponsoring an employee under Tier 2 (General), the employer must carry out the resident labour market test, which means advertising the position for at least 28 days in accordance with strict Home Office requirements.

4. Transferring employees within the same company or group

The minimum salary threshold for migrants coming to the UK from an overseas branch of the same group of companies under the ICT route will increase to £41,500 per annum.

This will potentially have a significant impact on employers that currently transfer a large number of employees from overseas offices to the UK for periods of less than 12 months.

Previously, these individuals would have applied under the ICT (short-term staff) category and the minimum salary threshold that applied would have been £30,000 per annum.

5. Immigration Health Surcharge

A further April change is that ICT migrants will no longer benefit from the current exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Both the main applicant and their dependants will have to pay £200 per year of their visa or leave to remain.