The Home Office has finally published some details on the Immigration Skills Charge Levy, which will come into force on 6 April 2017, subject to parliamentary approval. This is set out in the Tier 2 & 5 Sponsor Guidance.
The skills charge will apply to a sponsor of a Tier 2 worker who assigns a Tier 2 (General) or a Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) certificate of sponsorship (aka work permit) on or after 6 April 2017, whether the worker will be applying for their visa from outside the UK or from inside the UK (when they are switching into this visa or extending their existing visa).
The skills charge will be £1,000 per year of the visa (so £3,000 for a 3-year visa) for medium or large sponsors and £364 per year (so £1,092 for a 3-year visa) for charitable or small sponsors (with small sponsors usually having an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less and 50 employees or fewer). The skills charge will be payable upfront when you assign the Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). You do not have to pay the skills charge for the worker’s family members, which is a welcome concession.
It is clearly becoming very expensive to sponsor skilled international talent. The Skills levy will be added on top of the ever increasing visa fees and Immigration Health Surcharge fee.
The skills charge will not apply if you are sponsoring someone:
- who is currently on a Tier 4 student visa who is switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa from inside the UK;
- in the Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee category; or
- to do a role with a SOC code at PhD-level.
Therefore if you are thinking about sponsoring an employee under a Tier 2 visa then you may wish to assign the COS before 6 April to avoid incurring the skills charge. Note that you will need to ensure that the employee meets all of the requirements for a Tier 2 visa, including passing the resident labour market test, if this is required.
Other changes to Tier 2
The Guidance for Tier 2 and 5 Sponsors also gives details on some other important changes:
- Overseas criminal record certificate requirement – from April 2017, Tier 2 visa applicants coming to work in education, health and social care (and their adult dependants) will need to provide a criminal record certificate from each country in which they have resided continuously or cumulatively for 12 months or more in the 10 years before they apply for their visa. If you are thinking about sponsoring a Tier 2 worker in one of these sectors the worker will need to start collating the relevant documentation as soon as possible to avoid delaying their visa start date. The SOC codes to which this requirement will apply are set out at the end of this blog.
- Pushing back a Tier 2 worker’s start date – the Tier 2 guidance on changing a sponsored employee’s start date has been clarified. A Tier 2 worker can still be granted entry clearance to the UK up to 14 days before the start date on their Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). Once a Tier 2 (General) visa has been granted, it is possible to delay the employee’s start date but this cannot be delayed by more than 4 weeks from the start date on their COS. Employees on Tier 2 (ICT) visas can have their start date pushed back by more than 4 weeks provided they continue to be paid by the overseas company that is transferring them to the UK. You will therefore need to plan the work start date carefully to ensure your sponsored migrant is not caught out by this new change.
- Resident labour market test required for nurses – sponsors will now need to carry out the resident labour market test (which typically involves advertising the role in two places for at least 28 days) before assigning a Tier 2 (General) COS for a worker in the SOC code ‘2231 Nurses’, even though this is on the shortage occupation list. For all other jobs on the shortage occupation list the resident labour market test is not required.
- Offering a job through a “milkround” – the guidance on the date by which you must assign a COS if you have recruited a Tier 2 worker through a “milkround” (an annual recruitment programme where employers visit universities to give presentations and interview students, typically at careers fairs) has been clarified. Under the amended guidance, for COS’s assigned from 6 April 2017, you must have offered the job within 6 months of the milkround recruitment campaign ending and the COS must be assigned within 48 months of the milkround taking place.
Job codes where a Tier 2 applicant will need to provide criminal record certificates:
1181 – Health services and public health managers and directors
1184 – Social services managers and directors
2211 – Medical practitioners
2212 – Psychologists
2213 – Pharmacists
2214 – Ophthalmic opticians
2215 – Dental practitioners
2217 – Medical radiographers
2218 – Podiatrists
2219 – Health professionals not elsewhere classified
2221 – Physiotherapists
2222 – Occupational therapists
2223 – Speech and language therapists
2229 – Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
2231 – Nurses
2232 – Midwives
2312 – Further education teaching professionals
2314 – Secondary education teaching professionals
2315 – Primary and nursery education teaching professionals
2316 – Special needs education teaching professionals
2317 – Senior professionals of educational establishments
2318 – Education advisers and school inspectors
2319 – Teaching and other educational professionals not elsewhere classified
2442 – Social workers
2443 – Probation officers
2449 – Welfare professionals not elsewhere classified
If you would like to discuss the implications of the Immigration Skills Charge or the other Tier 2 changes for your business, please contact the specialist Business Immigration Team at Doyle Clayton.