Immigration Rules Changes For Skilled Workers October 2020

The new Immigration Rules for the Skilled Worker category (replacing the Tier 2 visa) have now been published. Much of what we have understood through the various policy statements that were released by the Government has now been incorporated in to The Rules. By way of summary, the key features being as follows:

  1. The Skilled Worker visa will include a sub-category known as the Health and Care visa.

  2. To sponsor workers under the Skilled Worker categories a business will need a Skilled Worker licence and an Intra-Company Transfer licence. Existing Tier 2 Sponsors will be able to continue to use their sponsor licence for Skilled Worker applications.

  3. Minimum salary threshold to be reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 (but in certain circumstances this can be lower). Migrants will still need to be paid the ‘going rate’ salary for their occupation.

  4. New entrants’ salary will be set 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation.

  5. The required skill level for a sponsored role will reduce from Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 to level 3.

  6. The resident labour market test, requiring a business to show that they have advertised the role first before applying for a certificate of sponsorship will be abolished.

  7. The annual cap on Tier 2 (General) certificates will be suspended.

Further clarifications and developments are as follows:

  1. Timing - The Skilled Worker category will apply from 1 December 2020. It will be possible to submit Skilled Worker visa applications for EU citizens starting work on or after 1 January 2021 and for non-EU citizens starting after 1 December.

  2. The 12-month cooling off period and Six-year maximum length of stay are being abolished, meaning that the Skilled Worker route will not restrict when applications can be made or restrict the length of stay on a Skilled Worker visa.

  3. The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications is being removed. Instead, sponsors must be paying their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 per year and the going rate for the occupation.

  4. There will be a relaxation of in-country switching to the Skilled Worker visa and this will now be possible so long as the applicant holds a visa that allows them to work or study in the UK. This means that those on a Tier 2 (ICT) and those on one of the Tier 5 working visas will be able to switch rather than needing to return home to apply.

  5. The criteria to identify a “new entrant to the labour market” are being amended so that in addition to those switching from the student route or who are under the age of 26, new entrants will also include those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions and those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status. The criteria for new entrants switching from the Student route are also being widened to include those who were in the route at any time in the two years before they apply for a Skilled Worker visa.   

  6. Benefits and allowances cannot be used to meet the salary threshold. The new Rules confirm that only gross salary can be used for this purpose.  There will be transitional arrangements for Tier 2 General migrants for whom you will be able to use allowances as part of salary and this was used to meet the salary threshold in their last application.

  7. A Skilled Worker visa holder (or Tier 2 visa holder) must not be outside of the UK for more than 180 days in a colander year in order to qualify for permanent residence (also known as indefinite leave to remain). However, any absences because of travel disruption due to a pandemic, military conflict or natural disaster will not be counted towards the 180-day limit. It should be noted that remote working outside of the UK will not be considered as travel disruption if it is possible to travel to the UK.

  8. You will be aware that the Migration Advisory Committee published their recommendation to the changes to the Shortage Occupation List on 29 September. The Government have stated that they will consider the recommendations at a future date and that for now the Government will assess how the UK labour market develops post-covid and in response to the introduction to the new Immigration System. 

  9. Intra-Company Transfers

  • This route is now being renamed ‘IntraCompany routes’ with the same subcategories; IntraCompany Transfer Route and Intra-Company Graduate Trainee.

  • Tier 2 (ICT) visa holders can switch from within the UK into the Skilled Worker category and then be on a track to indefinite leave to remain after 5 years as a Skilled Worker. 

  • Provisions for high earners is being unified to a single salary threshold of £73,900. Workers with salaries at or above this threshold can hold IntraCompany Transfer leave for up to nine years in any 10-year rolling period and are exempt from the requirement to have worked for the overseas business for 12 months prior to entering the UK.

  • A change is being made to the coolingoff requirement. Previously, the Rules prevented a person reentering the UK on the Intra-Company Transfer route for 12 months after departing. The Rules are being amended so that applicants are permitted to hold IntraCompany Transfer leave for up to five years in any six-year rolling period or up to nine years in any 10-year period for high earners.

  • The ICT salary threshold will remain as under Tier 2 (ICT) at £41,500 or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher. The role must also be at RQF level 6. However, for ICT applications certain allowances can still count towards the salary threshold.

  • The current Tier 2 (IntraCompany Transfer) route will be closed to new applications from 1 December 2020. A person who has entry clearance or permission to stay on the Tier 2 (IntraCompany Transfer) route and wants to extend their stay in the UK can apply for further leave, switch status to the Skilled Worker category or settlement, under the new Intra-Company rules.

We will continue to advise you of any further developments in the coming weeks but if in the meantime you have any queries please contact us in the usual way.