Just as Tier 2 sponsors have become familiar with the 2010 Codes of Practice for Tier 2 visas, a recent Statement of Changes for Immigration Rules will take effect from 6 April 2014.
The changes detail adjustments to the minimum salary thresholds for Tier 2 visa categories including appropriate salary rates for specific occupations as set out in the Codes of Practice.
Codes of Practice are an integral part of the immigration system; they identify which industries and occupations are being underserved by the native work force through the Resident Labour Market Test and set the minimum rates of pay that allow a migrant worker to qualify for the visa.
The Codes of Practice apply mainly to Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa applications and operate alongside, but are distinct from, the shortage occupation list. However, the changes also apply to some parts of Tier 5, Tier 1 (Post-Study Workers) switching into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and to Work Permit holders applying for settlement.
The new salary thresholds are based on a 0.9 increase in line with the Average Weekly Earnings Index (AWEI). Thresholds have been rounded to the nearest £100.
The minimum earnings thresholds continue to be met through a combination of gross salary and guaranteed allowances for accommodation and subsistence. For the moment at least, a change of policy on allowances is deemed "unnecessary" and "impractical" by the Migration Advisory Committee.
What does this mean for current tier 2 visa sponsors?
For all Certificate of Sponsorships issued on or after 6 April, sponsors will need to ensure that the Tier 2 migrant's salary meets the new relevant minimum salary threshold, as well as the appropriate rate set out in the revised Code of Practice. However, flexibility is being added to ease the transition to the new salary rates.
If a Tier 2 migrant makes an application for an Entry Clearance or Leave to Remain on or after the 6 April 2014 using a Certificate of Sponsorship that was assigned to them by their sponsor before 6 April 2014, the visa application will be decided in accordance with the rules in force on 5 April 2014.
With regard to the other changes outlined in the Statement of Changes and Explanatory Memorandum, if a Tier 2 migrant has made an application for Entry Clearance or Leave to Remain before 6 April 2014, the application will be decided in accordance with the Rules in force on the 5 April 2014.
This area, which is by its very nature, always going to be complex further emphasises the need for sponsors to reacquaint themselves with the Codes of Practice, periodically.