Among the requirements when hiring a Tier 2 visa employee, the minimum salary threshold is often one of the more complicated for employers to deal with.
Varying rules for different classes of worker and different types of role create considerable margin for error. Getting it wrong can have serious consequences for sponsor licence holders, potentially affecting the lawful status of the visa holder to work in the UK and resulting in Home Office punitive action against the employer.
Exacerbating the compliance risk is the changing level of the salary thresholds. The government reviews and alters levels and exemptions, and employers have to keep pace.
What is the Tier 2 Minimum Salary?
In general terms, every PBS worker must be paid the relevant minimum salary amount or more, to be eligible under the Tier 2 visa requirements.
The salary level is to be the greater of either the level set by the relevant SOC code for their particular role or the overall minimum salary applicable to their circumstances.
This requires the employer to ensure they have first selected the correct and appropriate SOC code to match the role being recruited for.
The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code is used to assess the correct skill level and appropriate salary level for specific job roles. Employers are required to select the SOC code that most closely matches the job description they are looking to sponsor a migrant worker for.
With the relevant SoC code selected, the employer can then assign the relevant Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Failure to meet the appropriate salary level will mean the sponsor is not permitted to issue the CoS.
Tier 2 Minimum Salary for new entrants or experienced workers?
Workers who fall under the ‘new entrant’ category are subject to a lower Tier 2 minimum salary level.
To be classed as a new entrant, the worker must:
- be switching from Tier 4 (General) from within the UK, ie after finishing their course; or
- be applying for leave under the Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee sub-category; or
- be under the age of 26 on the date that they make their application.
An application can only be made if it brings their total time in the UK, including the Tier 2 status, to be no longer than 3 years and one month. They also cannot be applying for ILR.
Workers who do not meet these requirements will come under the experienced worker category.
Tier 2 General visa holders
Two levels of threshol apply under the General route. £20,800 applies to new entrants or stipulated exemptions. All other roles must pay at least £30,000 per annum, unless a higher rate is specified under the relevant SOC code, in which case the higher rate prevails.
ICT visa holders
Intracompany transfers of Tier 2 workers require a higher minimum salary than under the General route.
A minimum salary of £41,500 must be paid, unless a higher rate for experienced workers is set under the relevant SOC code.
Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainees must be paid the greater of either £23,000 per annum minimum, or the new entrant rate for the relevant SOC code.
Applying for ILR
New guidelines have been issued in respect of Tier 2 visa holders applying to settle in the UK through Indefinite Leave to Remain.
For Tier 2 workers who have held leave under the Tier 2 (General) category for five years can apply for settlement where they meet the ILR requirements, which includes a minimum salary level. Individuals with a role on the Shortage Occupation List or skilled to PhD level are exempt from the ILR minimum salary requirement.
The thresholds have been set to increase annually as follows:
- ILR applications made before 6 April 2019: £35,500
- ILR applications made before 6 April 2020: £35,800
- ILR applications made before 6 April 2021: £36,200
- ILR applications made before 6 April 2022: £36,900
- ILR applications made on or after 6 April 2022: £37,900
Changes to the Tier 2 Visa Minimum Salary
The government continues to make changes to the Tier 2 minimum salary threshold.
Most recently, the Home Office has confirmed the temporary exemption of non-EEA secondary STEM and mandarin teachers and nurses, paramedics, medical radiographers from the £30,000 salary threshold is to be made permanent. With effect from 30th March 2019, these roles will have to meet the lower £20,800 per annum minimum to be Tier 2 eligible.
Looking further ahead, the Tier 2 visa minimum salary requirement was one of the areas identified for review by the MAC in its 2018 Brexit impact report. Government proposals for reform of the UK immigration system post-Brexit have mooted a threshold of £30,000 for the skilled worker route. This has been met with widespread criticism from across the UK economy, with concerns this level is too high and potentially excludes swathes of skilled worker roles, in particular those based in the UK regions.
Do you have a question about the Tier 2 visa minimum salary?
It is for each sponsor licence holder to check the salary status of the role in question or risk refusal of the application or compliance issues with the Home Office.
One area of particular risk to consider when determining the salary level will be working hours and patterns. The prescribed salary levels are generally based on a 39-hour working week. As such, employers will need to take care when calculating the annual salary in respect of part-time or shift workers and avoid non-compliant practices such as including overtime pay. Contracted weekly hours or hourly rate pay must be pro-rated for the hours you are sponsoring the migrant to work.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration solicitors, working with UK employers to advise on all aspects of the Tier 2 visa sponsorship licence including minimum salary thresholds.
For advice about your Tier 2 visa sponsor licence or hiring Tier 2 workers, contact us.