The Immigration Skills Charge

A new charge has been introduced for the Tier 2 (General) and (Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)) categories. Although limited exceptions apply, the majority of businesses will now have to pay an additional cost of £1,000 per migrant worker, per year in order to recruit key non-EEA talent.

The Immigration Health Surcharge

Many migrants are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) to help fund the National Health Service (NHS) and provide migrants with the same access to the NHS as UK citizens.

Tier 2 (ICT) migrants were previously exempt from this charge but now, along with their dependants, they will have to pay £200 per person, per year. 

Overseas Criminal Records certificates

Workers in the education, health and social care sectors will be required to provide a criminal records certificate for each country they have lived in for 12 months or more for the previous 10 years. Partners applying from overseas on or after 6 April 2017 who want to join an existing Tier 2 (General) visa holder working in one of these sectors will also have to provide a certificate. This requirement is likely to increase the time it takes for a migrant to collate the necessary documentation and submit their visa application. 

Changes to salary

The minimum salary for Tier 2 (General) migrants will increase from £25,000 to £30,000 for experienced workers. New entrants will still be subject to the current minimum salary of £20,800. The relevant codes of practice should be consulted to determine the appropriate rate for the particular job. 

Businesses sponsoring 'high earner' migrants will continue to be exempt from carrying out a Resident Labour Market Test and from applying to the Home Office for a 'restricted' Certificate of Sponsorship. The 'high earner' salary threshold will, however, increase from £155,300 to £159,600. 

The Resident Labour Market Test

A new Resident Labour Market Test exemption will be introduced for Tier 2 (General) posts which support the relocation of a high value business to the UK or a significant new inward investment project. The sponsor must be a newly-registered branch (within the last three years) or a subsidiary of an overseas business and the investment must involve capital expenditure of £27 million or the creation of at least 21 new UK jobs. These requirements are incredibly specific and may prove to be difficult to achieve. However they offer a lot of promise for smaller start-up companies with considerable funding looking to build their business. 

ICT workers

The Tier 2 (ICT) (Short-Term Staff) category will close, meaning that, following the closure of the Skills Transfer category in November 2016, all ICT migrants (except graduate trainees) must now earn a minimum salary of £41,500. For senior ICT migrants, who are able to extend their total stay in the category to up to nine years, the salary threshold will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000. 

The requirement for ICT migrants to have 12 months' prior employment with a sponsor group company will be removed for those earning a salary of £73,900 or above. This change will make it easier for businesses to transfer (newly recruited) staff from its overseas entities at short notice, in order to respond to the needs of the business and its clients.


The following are changes proposed by Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The first changes to be introduced in Autumn 2016 and the second April 2017. Current licensed companies and future employers take note:

Autumn 2016 changes

  • There will be an increase in the Tier 2 (General) minimum salary threshold to £25,000 for experienced workers, maintaining the minimum threshold of £20,800 for new entrants.
  • There will be exemptions from the increased Tier 2 (General) experienced worker salary threshold for nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin. The exemption will end in July 2019.
  • The salary threshold for the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term route will be raised to £30,000.
  • The minimum salary requirement for the Tier 2 ICT (Graduate Trainee) category will be reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 and the number of places available to companies will rise from 5 to 20 per year.
  • The Tier 2 (ICT) Skills Transfer category will be closed to new applications.
  • Extra weighting will be given to overseas graduates in the Tier 2 (General) monthly quota allocation, to make it easier for employers to score the necessary points to secure a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • Employers will continue to be able to sponsor non-EEA graduates of UK universities without first testing the resident labour market and without being subject to the annual limit on Tier 2 (General) places. Graduates will also be able to switch roles once they secure a permanent job at the end of their training programme, without the Sponsor having to undertake a resident labour market test.
  • The Immigration Health Surcharge will be introduced for the Tier 2 (ICT) category.
  • Nurses will remain on the shortage occupation list but employers will need to carry out a resident labour market test before recruiting a non-EEA nurse.

April 2017 changes

  • The Tier 2 (General) minimum salary threshold will be raised to £30,000 for experienced workers.
  • The Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term category will be closed to new applications
  • The Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) will be introduced for employers of Tier 2 migrants. This will be £1,000 per migrant per annum (£364 for small businesses and those in the charitable sector). An exemption to the charge will apply to PhD-level jobs and international students switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 (General).
  • The high-earners’ salary for Long-Term ICTs will be reduced from £155,300 to £120,000.
  • The one year experience requirement in the Long-Term ICT category will be removed where the applicant is earning over £73,900.
  • There will be a waiver of the Resident Labour Market Test and prioritisation for Tier 2 (General) places where the visa grant(s) are in support of the relocation of a high-value business to the UK or, potentially, an inward investment project.
  • The MAC’s recommendation of a 24 month period of employment to qualify for Tier 2 (ICT) will not be introduced.
  • Following a review of allowances under the Tier 2 (ICT) categories, there may be some changes to the type and amount of any allowance which can be amalgamated with the base salary, in order to meet the minimum salary threshold.

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