Today, 24 March, the government has announced its response to two reviews of Tier 2 policy by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
Tier 2 is the main immigration route for non-EEA nationals to apply to work in the UK. The proposed changes are balanced to ensure that employers are incentivised to up-skill and train resident workers, whilst making sure they can continue to access migrant workers when needed.
The main changes include:
Tier 2 (General) salary thresholds for experienced workers will be increased to £25,000 in autumn 2016, and £30,000 in April 2017. However, some health and education professionals will be exempt from the higher threshold until July 2019. The minimum threshold of £20,800 for new entrants will be maintained
Tier 4 students switching to a Tier 2 visa will not be subject to a limit on numbers and their sponsor will not have to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test
nurses will remain on the Shortage Occupation List, but sponsors will need to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test before recruiting a non-EEA nurse
the current intra-company transfer provisions are being simplified by requiring all intra-company transferees to qualify under a single visa category with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500, with the exception of the graduate trainees
the Immigration Skills Charge will be levied on Tier 2 employers at a rate of £1,000 per person per year from April 2017, with a rate of £364 for smaller businesses and charities, and an exemption for PhD occupations, Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Graduate Trainees and Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2
the Immigration Rules for work categories will be simplified, making them easier for sponsors and applicants to understand and use
The changes will come into effect in two stages (autumn 2016 and April 2017) to ensure that businesses have time to prepare.
Further detail is available in the written ministerial statement.