What is the change? The Home Office has released a new guidance for sponsors highlighting several important changes to Tier 2 rules beginning April 6.

What does the change mean? Changes to the immigration rules are expected to be announced in March and to take effect April 6, including the new immigration skills charge of £1,000 per certificate of sponsorship.

  • Implementation time frame: April 6.
  • Visas/permits affected: Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) categories.
  • Who is affected: All U.K. employers.
  • Business impact: The immigration skills charge will significantly increase costs for U.K. companies using Tier 2 routes.

The sponsor guidance now contains an addendum making clear that the immigration skills charge will come into effect April 6 as anticipated:

  • Immigration Skills Charge. An immigration skills levy must be paid by companies sponsoring Tier 2 (General) and (ICT) workers who are applying outside the U.K., or who are applying from inside the U.K. either to extend their existing visa or to switch from another category. Exceptions include: workers sponsored before April 6 who are applying from inside the U.K. to extend their stay with the same or a different sponsor, Tier 2 (ICT Graduate Trainee), Tier 4 student visa holders switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa, and specified Ph.D. level occupations. The immigration skills charge will be £1,000 per year per migrant for medium and large sponsors (£364 per year per migrant for small sponsors and charitable organizations), and must be paid up-front for the entire duration covered by the certificate of sponsorship at the time the certificate of sponsorship is issued. The levy does not apply to family dependents. The skills charge is in addition to the new apprenticeship levy that will apply to all U.K. employers with an annual salary bill of more than £3 million (and calculated as 0.5 percent of the salary bill in excess of £3 million payable via HM Revenue & Customs). The money from both schemes will be spent by the Department for Education through its Institute for Apprenticeships and other training initiatives.

The sponsor guidance also now announces some other minor changes to the rules for Tier 2 migrants:

  • Start dates. The guidance now make clear that Tier 2 (General) workers who are issued a visa must start work on the date given on the certificate of sponsorship and cannot delay their start date by more than four weeks. Under the ICT subcategory, the start date may surpass four weeks from the visa issuance date as long as the migrant continues to be paid by the overseas entity.
  • Resident labor market test for shortage occupations. Employers may only assign a certificate of sponsorship for a job on the shortage occupation list if the migrant will work for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
  • Timing of milkround recruitment. When a migrant is recruited via a milkround, the employer must assign the certificate of sponsorship within 48 months of the milkround. For certificates of sponsorship assigned April 6 and later, the migrant must have been offered the job within six months of the end of the milkround campaign.
  • Criminal record certificates. Starting in April, Tier 2 visa applicants must provide criminal record certificates if coming to the U.K. to work in education, health or social care.

BAL Analysis: Employers should budget for the additional Immigration Skills Charge for all transfers and new hires now in the pipeline, as well as prepare for the other changes taking effect in April, which were highlighted last March when they were first announced. BAL will provide further news alerts as soon as the Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules is available in mid-March and will be discussing the business impact of these changes in our upcoming client webinar.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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