The Statement of Changes laid before Parliament on 16 March 2011 give us an indication as to how Tier 2 (General) will operate. The new Immigration Rules, which will come into force on 6 April 2011, will affect the ability of many employers to recruit non-EEA nationals as well as the ability of Migrants to extend their stay in the UK.
We recently blogged that the limit for overseas applicants applying under Tier 2 (General) from 6 April 2011 to 5 April 2012 will be set at 20,700. Sponsors will no longer be able to request a certificate of sponsorship allocation (COS) for the next 12 months; instead, the limit will be divided into monthly allocations (the wonderfully termed ‘restricted COS application process’). This system will prioritise shortage occupations in the first instance. Occupations requiring higher academic qualifications and jobs with higher salaries will also be afforded a level of priority. If the limit is over-subscribed in any particular month, unsuccessful requests will not be carried forward. Whilst the UKBA will not charge to process COS requests, it is clear that the timing of these requests will be key.
There are changes to the English language requirement which will have an impact on the ability to recruit skilled non-EEA nationals. We have recently been advising a client in relation to Tier 2 (General) applications for prospective overseas employees. Our client not only has to contend with changes to the salary threshold and experience required for the role in question but also, the fact that the Government has raised the English language requirement from basic user standard to intermediate level (B1 on the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language Learning). This may lead to our client having to re-advertise the positions on offer and delay the process in which they can make their COS request. We are now working with the company to plan when and how they can fill their urgent vacancies.
Migrants currently under Tier 2 (General) or under the work permit scheme will be able to extend their stay after 6 April 2011 without being subject to the new annual limits, salary threshold or English language level, despite whether they are changing employer or extending with their current employer.
Other changes are as follows; Tier 4 Migrants who wish to switch into Tier 2 will have to have completed a course of study of at least one academic year during their period of leave as a Tier 4 Migrant. In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain, an additional requirement for the employee to be earning at least the UK appropriate rate for the job they are doing will be in force from 6 April 2011. For consistency, a resident labour market test will be required for all changes of employment under Tier 2 (General), where the job is not on the shortage occupation list, and this includes those who are extending their stay from the previous work permit scheme.
The monthly limit for Tier 2 (General) restricted COS is 1,500 and time will soon reveal just how quickly this quota will be reached.