However, for businesses in the UK there are important issues which should be considered at this stage, and these include:
Immigration Skills Charge
6 April 2017 will see the introduction of the Immigration Skills Charge for Tier 2 visas. This charge will be the equivalent of £1,000 per year for each sponsored worker and will need to be paid up front. Small businesses and charities will benefit from a reduced rate of £364 per year but the costs will still be significant, for example:
Large Business: A 3 year assignment currently costs £199 for the Certificate of Sponsorship. From 6 April 2017 it will cost £3,199.
Small Business: A 3 year assignment currently costs £199 for the Certificate of Sponsorship. From 6 April 2017 it will cost £1,291.
A small business is defined as one with less than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £10.2 million.
The Skills Charge will only apply to new hires and transfers using Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas, but the following will be exempt:
- Extending an existing Tier 2 worker's visa;
- Hiring a Tier 2 worker from another company; and
- Hiring an international student with a Tier 4 visa who has completed his or her course.
Businesses concerned about the immediate financial impact should be looking at accelerating recruitment so that this takes place before 6 April and is not subject to the Skills Charge. In the medium to long term, businesses may wish to consider negotiating contractual terms with sponsored workers that will oblige the worker to refund some of the visa costs should they leave employment within a set period. Such clauses are not common in the UK but I am aware of their existence in some sectors and they may become more widespread in the future.
Criminal records check
On 6 April 2017 the Home Office will extend the requirement to provide criminal records checks to individuals applying for Tier 2 visas in certain occupations. This will initially be limited to jobs in healthcare, education and social work but it is likely to be extended again in the future.
This will only apply to individuals applying for entry clearance and will not apply to people already inside the UK extending their visas or switching into the Tier 2 category. Certificates will be required from any country, other than the UK, where the individual has lived for 12 months in the last 10 years.
Employers in these sectors will need to advise applicants of this requirement at an early stage, as in some cases it can take several weeks to obtain a certificate. Full details of how to obtain certificates can be found on the Home Office website.
Home Office consultation on changing the Immigration Rules
Immigration lawyers have been aware of rumours of a consultation on wide spread changes to the Immigration Rules for some months, and while no definitive date is set yet, it is likely this will take place during 2017. Measures we can expect to see suggested include:
- Proposals to tighten the Resident Labour Market Test and introduce more steps which must be taken before someone from outside the EU can be recruited;
- Proposals to reduce the use of Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfers) and encourage businesses to invest in training local staff. Some countries require businesses to provide a skills transfer plan when transferring an existing employee to the UK and this may become a requirement of UK immigration law in the future.
Brexit and the status of EU workers
We are expecting the UK Government to formally engage Article 50 during March 2017, with a view to leaving the EU by March 2019. Once Article 50 is triggered negotiations with the EU will begin and the status of EU nationals already in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, is likely to be one of the first topics discussed.
There is no clear indication what the result of these negotiations is likely to be, so we are still encouraging EU nationals in the UK to consider applying for registration certificates confirming they are working or, for those who have been in the UK for 5 years, to investigate their eligibility for permanent residence cards. These documents are likely to offer a great degree of security to EU workers, and could also make it unnecessary to make a further application in the future depending the outcome of the negotiations with the EU.
Ultimately 2017 is likely to be the start of a significant period of change to the UK immigration rules as we find out more about how immigration will work post Brexit. We will of course keep you updated as more becomes known but in the meantime, if you have any questions, please let me know.