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Jamie Lawrence

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Analysis: 2013 changes to immigration rules and how they affect HR

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UK immigration rules are subject to annual change each April. Here, immigration specialist Newland Chase summarises some of the key changes for this year, to be implemented on 6th April 2013.

UK immigration practitioners are now becoming very familiar with the frequent changes to UK immigration rules and the now regular annual changes that occur each April. This year, a mixed bag is expected and although none of the proposed changes are too drastic, there is still a 41 page Statement of Intent to get to grips with. However, to save readers some time we have summarised those changes that will be of most interest to UK employers, HR and Global Mobility professionals for you below.

The changes have been driven by last year’s review of the Tier 2 Codes of Practice by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Some of the changes set out in the Statement of Intent are merely matters of house-keeping; including updating the list of occupations from the old SOC 2000 system to the new SOC 2010 system and streamlining the codes into a single document (replacing the separate alphabetised sections that are currently in place). These changes should hopefully make the task of selecting the most appropriate SOC code easier for sponsors and HR professionals and so these steps, although small, should be welcomed.

Changes to minimum salary thresholds and appropriate salary rates

Less welcome news will be the planned increases to the minimum salary thresholds for Tier 2, which will have to be met before a non-EEA national can be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship. The increases are purportedly designed to bring salary thresholds in line with wage inflation. This essentially means that the minimum salary thresholds for the Tier 2 Intra-company short-term and long-term routes and the Tier 2 General route will increase slightly from £24,000, £40,000 and £20,000 to £24,300, £40,600 and £20,300 respectively (an increase of 1.5%). Similarly, the £150k threshold for Tier 2 General with exemption from the Resident Labour Market test will increase from £150,000 to £152,100.

There are, however, some concessions being made with new lower pay thresholds being introduced specifically for ‘new entrant’ or graduate employees.

Changes to the Resident Labour Market Test

Other good news relates to the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), with a suggestion that the current lists of specific publications and websites where vacancies can be advertised (found under each SOC Code) will be replaced with a set of simple criteria for identifying suitable media. This will give sponsors more autonomy and greater flexibility in being able to meet the RLMT. Please note that since the changes will come into effect on 6 April 2013 they will affect the timing of applications for restricted certificates of sponsorship in March and April.

Although it was hoped that the requirement to advertise in Jobcentre Plus would be removed, there has been no change to this and it is still the case that most vacancies will need to be advertised on the Jobcentre Plus website, unless they are shortage occupations or the salary is over £71,000.

Other news from the MAC

In the last quarter of 2012 the MAC were also asked by the Government to undertake a review of the current Shortage Occupation List. The 276-page report published in February drew on the views of stakeholders and partners, including Newland Chase, in essentially what look to be largely positive recommendations for the future of the Shortage Occupation list.

One of the recommendations was for most occupations currently on the list to be allowed to remain there, along with the inclusion of several other occupations particularly in the oil and gas sector.

The MAC also vetoed the idea of introducing a sunset clause and essentially agreed with the view presented by Newland Chase and others that the regular review of the Shortage Occupation List essentially operates as a ‘de facto sunset regime’. They also suggested that organisations should be given the opportunity to argue for the continued inclusion of occupations on the list at the end of the sunset period rather than an ‘automatic guillotine’ being in operation.

‘Consultation fatigue’

Finally, readers will be glad to hear that the MAC has recommended there is now at least a two year break before any further review of the Shortage Occupation List occurs and put this down to overwhelming evidence of general ‘consultation fatigue’ amongst stakeholders.

Let’s hope this translates into a general period of calm for UK Immigration as there are not many who wouldn’t agree that we need it!

Fees

Finally, in February 2013, the Immigration Minister Mark Harper proposed fee increases for visa applications made overseas and in the UK.

In the UKBA press release, reference is made to the ‘difficult financial context for the UK Border Agency and the government as a whole.’ There is no reference, however, as to the effect these increases will have on individuals who may also be struggling due to the economic downturn.

A full list of the fee changes can be found here. Applicants must always ensure that they pay the correct UK visa fee for any application made, or failure to do so will lead to rejections and delays.

We hope that this summary has been useful but if you wish to read the full list of changes, they can be found in the Statement of Intent.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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