The Government has recently published changes to the Immigration Rules and guidance.
Students switching into Tier 2 (General)
There are some welcome changes for those employers who wish to sponsor students who are currently on Tier 4 leave. Previously students must have completed their course before they could apply under Tier 2 (General). However, from 29 March 2019 onwards, students are able to apply for Tier 2 leave up to 3 months before the expected completion date of their course.
Minimum salary exemption to continue for certain professions
Also welcome is the news that UK Visas and Immigration will be extending the minimum salary exemption for certain professions, including nurses, paramedics and secondary school teachers in various disciplines such as physics, chemistry and Mandarin. This salary exemption had been due to expire in July 2019 but will now continue for the time being.
Changes to minimum salary thresholds for some roles
Employers should be aware that there have recently been changes to the minimum salary thresholds in some of the job codes (also known as SOC codes), some of which have increased whilst others have decreased.
As a reminder, in order to sponsor someone under the Tier 2 category, the sponsor must pay the sponsored migrant at or above the minimum salary threshold specified in the relevant SOC code for the role.
In any case, the sponsor must pay a salary that also meets the minimum salary for the specific Tier 2 category even if the SOC code salary is lower than this. The minimum Tier 2 salary threshold is usually £30,000 per year for Tier 2 (General) – though it can be a minimum of £20,800 per year in some cases - and £41,500 per year for Tier 2 (ICT).
If your company is intending to assign a certificate of sponsorship to enable you to hire a non-EEA national or to extend the leave of an existing Tier 2 employee, it’s important to check the current SOC code information and ensure that the proposed salary is at or above the required salary threshold.
Employers can find the updated SOC codes at this link to the Immigration rules - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-j-codes-of-practice-for-skilled-work.
Please note however that a number of the minimum salary figures in the SOC codes were not properly updated when the Immigration rules were changed. UK Visas has included details of the affected SOC codes on the first page of the latest Tier 2 policy guidance so employers should also check this document before assigning a certificate of sponsorship - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791035/Tier_2_Policy_Guidance_03_2019.pdf