The Home Office is making a number of significant changes to the Immigration Rules from the 6th April 2015. A summary of the most important changes follows:

 

NHS Surcharge

From the 6th April 2015, the Home Office will be introducing an NHS surcharge for all non-EEA nationals applying for temporary visas, both outside and inside of the UK. The surcharge will apply to all applications paid for from the 6th April onwards. Applicants will need to pay a sum of £200 (£150 for Tier 4 visas) per person for each year that their visa will be granted. For Tier 2 applicants this will normally amount to £600 per person for a three year visa or £1,000 per person for a five year visa. The sum must also be paid for each dependent family member applying with the main applicant.

Crucially this sum must be paid in full prior to the submission of the visa application.

The following applicants are exempt from the surcharge:

  • Individuals applying for a visitor visa or any type of visa not exceeding six months in duration;
  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) applicants and their dependants;
  • Those applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain or Naturalisation;
  • EEA nationals and their non-EEA national family members;
  • Nationals of Australia or New Zealand.

Going forwards, we would advise our clients to consider carefully the most appropriate length of visa to apply for. The Home Office will not refund any portion of the surcharge, regardless of how long the migrant worker has spent in the UK. If for example, you sponsor a migrant worker for a five year Tier 2 (General) visa, the NHS surcharge will be £1,000. If the migrant worker then leaves the UK after one year, they will not receive a refund of the £800 they have already paid for the four subsequent years.

 

Changes to Tier 2 of the Points Based System

As has been the case each April over the last few years, the Home Office is making minor alterations to Tier 2 of the Points Based System. These changes include:

  • An increase in the number of Restricted CoS available at the first panel meeting of the year in April 2015 from 1,725 to 2,550. This will help with the normal ‘rush’ of applications that occurs each April. The annual limit will stay at 20,700.
  • An alteration to the rules concerning the ‘Cooling off period’. Normally, individuals applying for Tier 2 visas from outside of the UK are prevented from doing so where they held any Tier 2 visa in the last year. This cooling off period will no longer be ‘activated’ by stays in the UK with a Tier 2 visa of three months or less.
  • The reclassification of paramedics as an NQF level 6 role.
  • Annual updates to the minimum salary thresholds as specified within the Home Office SOC codes. Please refer to the attached document for the new rates.
  • Annual, inflationary updates to the minimum salary thresholds for different visa categories, as specified below:

 

Criteria Current threshold New threshold
Jobs which qualify for Tier 2 (General) £20,500 £20,800
Jobs which are exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus (or JobCentre Online if the job is based in Northern Ireland) £71,600 £72,500
Jobs which are exempt from the annual limit, 12-month cooling-off period and the Resident Labour Market Test £153,500 £155,300
Jobs which qualify for the Short Term Staff, Skills Transfer or Graduate Trainee categories (maximum stay either six months or one year) £24,500 £24,800
Jobs which qualify for the Long Term Staff category (maximum stay five years) £41,000 £41,500

 

Tier 2 CoS allocations

Each April, the Home Office wipes each sponsor’s quota of Certificates of Sponsorship and replaces it with a quota of CoS requested prior to the 6th April. This process does not affect the validity of your Sponsor Licence, and so you only need to take action if you anticipate a need to assign Unrestricted CoS in the twelve months from April 2015. There is no cost associated with requesting a quota, and we can do this on your behalf. If you would like to make a request and have not already spoken to your consultant regarding this, please contact them as soon as possible.

Please also note that some sponsors will have their quota automatically renewed on the 6th April, and will not need to make a request.

If we do not request a quota by the 6th April and you later need to assign a CoS, we can request a quota on your behalf at any point in the year, and this generally takes 1-2 weeks to come through from the Home Office.

 

Changes to Tier 1 of the Points Based System

Minor changes are being made throughout Tier 1, although these are unlikely to affect employing entities as they mostly relate to individual driven application such as the Tier 1 (Investor) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes. However, it is important to note that from the 6th April, the Tier 1 (General) scheme will be closed to all extension applications. All migrant workers currently holding a Tier 1 (General) visa should have enough leave to get them to the five years needed to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain, so this change will not affect many. Applications for ILR on the basis of a Tier 1 (General) visa will remain open until April 2018.

 

Changes to visitor visas

The Home Office will be making several changes to the visitor visa rules, primarily to streamline the 15 existing routes into a more manageable four. It is envisaged that this change will not in itself have a great deal of effect on most applicants, since the principles regarding the activities that are permitted and prohibited on a visitor visa will remain largely the same. Specifically, the following activities will now be permitted within the visitor visa rules:

  • Carrying out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days at a UK registered charity;
  • Delivering training to UK based employees of a multinational company, where the training is part of a contract to deliver global training to the international corporate group.

 

Changes to Home Office application fees

As happens every April, the Home Office will be altering its visa application fees from the 6th April. In the vast majority of cases, fees will go up by an inflationary amount. The noticeable exception is the fee for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which will increase from £1,093 for a postal application to £1,500, an increase of 37%.

 

Introduction of Biometric Residence Permits for Entry Clearance applications

From mid-April 2015, the Home Office will begin issuing BRPs to applicants granted visas exceeding six months in length outside of the UK. Up until now, such applicants have always been granted their visa in the form of a vignette (sticker) present in their passport. Moving forwards, successful applicants will be granted a temporary 30 day vignette, which will allow them to enter the UK and collect their BRP from a designated branch of the Post Office.

The main implication of this change is that overseas applicants will now need to accurately predict both when they will be entering the UK and where they will be located within the UK, so as to facilitate the BRP being sent to a convenient branch of the Post Office. If the applicant does not enter the UK within the 30 day validity of the initial vignette they will need to apply to have it renewed, which will attract a fee and involve another application (with passport) to the local British Diplomatic Post.

This scheme will be rolled out in stages across 2015. Details can be found here.

 

If you have any questions regarding these changes or would like to discuss how these changes will affect you, please contact your consultant directly, or call the office on 0845 226 4030.