The government has recently announced the details of a change to migrant workers rules with an aim of reducing demand for migrant labour from British employers. The Immigration Skills Charge, expected to come into force on 6 April 2017, will be levied on employers that hire migrants in skilled areas. The charge will be set at £1,000 per employee per year for medium or large companies and at a reduced rate of £364 for small or charitable organisations. The sponsor will be considered to be a small business if its annual turnover is no more that £10.2 million and they have up to 50 employees. They will be asked to pay the skills charge as an add-on to the cost of the certificate of sponsorship, which currently stands at £199.
The Government has also included certain exemptions to the new rule. The charge will not apply to: Tier 4 visa holders switching from student visas to working visas; PhD-level jobs; Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) Graduate Trainees; and to non-EEA nationals who were sponsored in Tier 2 category before 6 April 2017 and now wish to apply for leave to remain in the United Kingdom either with the same or a different sponsor.
Furthermore, from April 2017, the Government plans to extend the requirement to provide a criminal record certificate to Tier 2 visa applicants coming to work in education, health and social care sectors. Their adult dependants will also be subject to this requirement. The applicants and their dependants will be required to submit the criminal record certificate before making their application. The certificate will be required for each country where they have resided continuously or cumulatively for 12 months or more in the past 10 years.
Changes will also affect the certificate of sponsorship start date. A prospective employee can be granted entry clearance no more than 14 days before the job start date as shown on his certificate of sponsorship. Once the entry clearance has been granted it can be postponed for up to 4 weeks if the migrant comes under Tier 2 (General) category. If migrant was granted a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa then it is possible to delay the original start date for more than 4 weeks if the migrant continues to be paid by the overseas entity.
The rules around shortage occupations are also going to be tightened. From April 2017 employers will be asked to carry out a resident labour market test before assigning the certificate of sponsorship to fill a job in the occupation code '2231 Nurses' - even though this job is in a shortage occupation. There was no such requirement before as all jobs in a shortage occupation listed in Appendix K of the Immigration Rules were exempt from a resident labour market requirement.
The skills charge is one of the key reforms within the Immigration Act 2016. The Act is a part of the government's on-going reforms that aim to ensure the immigration system works in the national interest and that British people have the right skills for the job market. The extension of criminal records requirement will strengthen safeguards against those with a criminal history seeking to come to the UK and we advise sponsors to inform prospective employees of the new requirement in advance as they need to have sufficient time to acquire the relevant documentation.