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Business immigration rules

11 July 2016

In order to employ migrant (non-EEA) workers, an employer in the UK must be registered with the Home Office and have a sponsor licence; in April of this year, there were 29,975 such employers.

This number has been steadily increasing as businesses require specialist skills from overseas, and more people migrate to the UK for work. The Office of National Statistics’ most recent quarterly report showed that 290,000 people entered the UK for work during the year ending September 2015.

In April this year the Home Office confirmed it will be implementing significant changes to business immigration rules affecting individuals in Tier 2 (the category within which most skilled workers come to the UK). It is widely considered that the changes to be introduced this autumn and next spring will generally make it more expensive for an employer to sponsor migrant workers.

Key changes include an increase to the minimum salary which must be paid to experienced workers in Tier 2 (General). The threshold will rise to £25,000 in autumn 2016, and to £30,000 in spring 2017. There are also extensive changes affecting those visiting the UK to work via an intra-company transfer (ie. those who already work within the same group of companies albeit overseas).

Overall, the most significant change is the Immigration Skills Charge. This will be introduced in April 2017 and will apply to all employers who sponsor migrant workers in the Tier 2 category (ie. general and intra-company transfers). The charge will be £1,000 per certificate of sponsorship per year and is therefore a substantial additional cost to employers. Lower rates will be payable by charities and smaller businesses.

As yet, the Home Office has not released the finer details of the application of this charge, so many questions remain in the air. We will share further information as it becomes available; in the meantime if you have a specific query about this, or business immigration in general, please contact our employment team who will be happy to advise.

An employment law masters’ graduate with extensive experience in employee relations and negotiations, Helen helps the employment team across areas such as legal research, drafting employment policies and tribunal preparation. She also advises businesses on immigration matters and assists them with securing sponsorship licences. Prior to joining the firm she gained experience in collective consultation and redundancy and restructuring exercises and has also worked as a legal researcher for an employment law barrister.

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