The Home Office has unveiled details of a radical overhaul to the Tier 2 working visa route today, scraping much of the sponsorship scheme employers signed up to when the Work Permit scheme was replaced by the points based system two years ago.
The criteria for the government’s new annual limit or ‘immigration cap’ were also announced by the Immigration Minister Damian Green.
This shake up is part of the government’s annual limit on non-EU workers, which will take effect on 6 April.
Last year the Home Office said that 20,700 visas will be made available to skilled workers applying through Tier 2 of the points-based system, as well as 1,000 visas under a new exceptional talent route.
Under the new system, employers will have to apply for a certificate of sponsorship from the UK Border Agency for a specific post (as they used to under the previous Work Permit scheme) if they wish to bring someone to the UK – a u-turn on the current Tier 2 system under which businesses were given an annual allocation.
Employers lost this allocation when Home Secretary announced the interim cap, which was later ruled unlawful in the High Court following a challenge by the ECCA last year.
Top earners exempt from Cap
As expected the minister confirmed that employers filling a vacancy that attracts a salary of £150,000 or more will not be subject to the limit on the number of certificate of sponsorship that may be allocated.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said:
‘Britain needs to attract the brightest and the best to fill jobs gaps but this should never be at the expense of workers already here.
‘We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system, and made it clear employers should look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.
‘And those that do come here to work must know that we intend to make the route to settlement tougher. It can not be right that people coming to fill temporary skills gaps have open access to permanent settlement.’
The annual limit of 20,700 certificate of sponsorship will be divided into 12 monthly allocations. Due to the likely demand in the first month, 4,200 certificate of sponsorship will be made available in April. After that the limit will be set at 1,500 places per month. Any places that are unused each month will be rolled over to the following month.
In the event that the monthly allocation is over subscribed, certificate of sponsorship applications will be ranked using a points system designed to favour jobs on the shortage occupation list, scientific researchers and those with a higher salary.
Once a certificate of sponsorship has then been granted to an employer it must be assigned to the prospective employee within 3 months.
Workers from outside the EU who want to come to the UK will need to have a graduate level job, speak an intermediate level of English, and meet specific salary and employment requirements.
3 changes to Intra Company scheme
The intra-company transfer route, which is not part of the annual limit, will also be changed in 3 ways:
- the job will have to be in an occupation on the graduate occupation list;
- only those paid £40,000 or more will be able to stay for more than a year. They will be granted for 3 years with the possibility of extending for a further 2; and
- those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for no longer than 12 months, at which point they must leave and will not be able to re-apply for 12 months.
Mr Green added:
‘Britain will benefit from migration provided it is controlled and directed towards improving our economy.
‘I am not seeking zero or negative net migration. Our aim is to reduce the level of migration down to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands.’
Imran Khan at the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said:
‘I’m delighted that the government, and the UK Border Agency in particular, have listened to our concerns. They’ve responded with a package that rewards people who want to come and invest their intellectual capital in this country. I think we can see this as an important victory for the science and engineering sector.’
The Home Office said that today’s statement of intent is not definitive, as the rules will be subject Parliamentary scrutiny, following recent court decisions. Migrants and employers will be given enough information to make effective plans, the Home Office promised.
MAC is the independent body which reports to the government on migration and labour issues, has recommended a new shorter list of occupations eligible under Tier 2 of the points-based system.
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