The Home Office has recently announced a number of changes to immigration law and practice which could have a significant impact on your business. These include increases in salary thresholds for eligibility for Tier 2 visas and changes to the cooling off period.
Removal of right of appeal
Applications submitted from 2 March 2015 onwards will no longer benefit from the right of appeal. Other than in human rights and asylum cases, the only remedies will be either administrative review (where another caseworker reconsiders the application based on the same information and documentation) or judicial review, which is unlikely to be a viable option in many cases. This means it is now even more critical that businesses and applicants ensure that applications are submitted correctly with all the required documentation as even simple errors (such as providing unstamped electronic bank statements) may mean that applications are refused with no remedy. We strongly recommend taking legal advice before submitting any immigration application.
Salary thresholds for Tier 2
The minimum salary thresholds for Tier 2 applications will increase as follows:
- Tier 2 (General) - £20,800
- Jobs exempt from Jobcentre Plus advertising - £72,500
- Jobs exempt from the Resident Labour Market and cooling off period and where transfers under Tier (ICT) are permitted for up to 9 years- £155,300
- Tier 2 (ICT) – short term categories - £24,800
- Tier 2 (ICT: Long Term) - £41,500
Whilst we have not been given an exact date for when these increases take effect, we expect it will be on 6 April when the Home Office releases their new Tier 2 guidance.
Changes to cooling off periods
The 12 month cooling off period will not apply to Tier 2 applicants who were previously granted leave under Tier 2 for three months or less.
Introduction of biometric residence permits for applicants applying from overseas
Between March and July 2015 UKVI will roll out biometric residence permits to applicants applying for entry clearance from overseas. At present these applicants receive an endorsement in their passports and only applicants applying from within the UK currently receive a biometric residence permit.
The new arrangements are fairly complex. When applying, migrants will have to provide details of their intended travel dates and a UK address. Their biometric residence permit will then be sent to a post office near to their address. In the meantime, the applicant will be issued with an endorsement in their passport which will be valid for only 30 days and the migrant must travel to the UK within that 30 day period. They must then collect the permit from the Post Office within 10 days of arriving in the UK.
This is less flexible than at present as migrants may currently enter the UK within 3 months of being granted entry clearance (rather than 30 days). If the migrant does not enter within the permitted 30 days they will need to apply again for a replacement short term visa, which will cause a delay.
It seems that one family member will be able to collect the permits for all other family members but it is not yet clear whether representatives will be allowed to collect permits on behalf of the migrants.
Right to work checks
These will also become more complicated under the new arrangements. Employers will need to decide on whether migrants may only start work once they have collected their permits. If they start work before they have collected their permit, the employer will need to first check and copy the 30 day endorsement in the passport (before it expires) and then check and copy the permit once this has been collected.
Offer letters and contracts should ideally be amended to make it clear that they are conditional on the person having valid leave but that they are also subject to the employee providing the permit to the employer.
NHS health surcharge and fee increases
It is likely that the NHS health surcharge will be introduced in April 2015. This surcharge (which it is anticipated will be £200 per person per year) will be added up front to most in country and out of country applications. Tier 2 ICT applicants are however likely to be exempt.
In addition, entry clearance and in country application fees will be increasing in April 2015. Details are still being finalised but the biggest increase looks likely to apply to settlement applications which look set to increase by around £400 to £1500. Where possible we recommend that individuals apply for settlement before April 2015.
Changes to visitor rules
With effect from 24 April 2015, the rules relating to visitors will be simplified. Rather than having the current 15 separate visitor categories, there will be just four visitor categories. These will be:
- Standard visitor which will cover both tourist and business visitor purposes
- Visitor for marriage/civil partnership
- Visitor for permitted paid engagements – this applies to artists and performers
- Transit visitor
Under the standard visitor category visitors will be able to carry out permitted business activities even if they did not initially declare them. The list of permitted activities has also been expanded and now helpfully includes the following:
- Incidental volunteering for up to 30 days at a registered UK charity
- Employees of an overseas training company delivering global training to employees of a multinational company based in the UK
- Training in specialist UK work practices and techniques may be delivered by non-corporate organisations
- Overseas lawyers may visit the UK to advise clients on litigation and international transactions even if the lawyers are not employed by an overseas multinational company.