What is the change? UK Visas and Immigration has published a comprehensive updated immigration policy guidance that encompasses rules for sponsors and points-based applicants.

What does the change mean? Applications submitted are now subject to the updated guidance that implements various immigration rule changes announced in the first quarter of 2016. Old versions of the guidance should be deleted and replaced by the new guidance only, which is accessible here.

  • Implementation time frame: The guidance is in effect for all applications filed April 6 and after.
  • Visas/permits affected: All points-basedcategories, including Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5.
  • Who is affected: K. companies and individuals accessing points-based visa categories.
  • Business impact: Employers face more restrictive rules for hiring non-EEA nationals.
  • Next steps: BAL will update clients on key changes in the contexts of their programs.

Key changes: The new guidance has been issued to reflect various changes across the Immigration Rules. Key changes of practical note to employers and educational sponsors include:

Students – The guidance clarifies that short-term students must “genuinely intend to study” in the U.K. and that the route can be used for students retaking modules. Other changes to Tier 4 student rules include elimination of the English language requirement for those on study-abroad modules from U.S. universities, clarification of who can work or undertake a placement while in the U.K., and an update on circumstances in which a student can change courses.

Employers – Tier 2 guidance has been updated, including the revised distribution of Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship throughout the year, as reported in March. The revised guidance clarifies that salaries may include guaranteed bonuses and allowances paid as standard to settled workers in the same role, and cost of living allowances for intra-company transfers only. The minimum salary for settlement applicants of £35,000 is now in force and will increase annually.

Other – The Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement category includes the addition of EU agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The new guidance contains an updated list of providers for English language tests and penalties provisions for private landlords under the Right to Rent provisions.

BAL Analysis: This guidance does not incorporate changes arising out of the Migration Advisory Committee recommendations for Tier 2 or the Immigration Minister’s March 24 statement. Those changes will be profiled by BAL as soon as legal reforms are finalized. Minimum salary levels of £20,800 for Tier 2 (General), £24,800 for short-term staff, £41,500 for long-term staff and £155,300 for high earners in force since April 2015 remain in place, but will likely change some time in the fall of 2016.

The new guidance is a reminder for employers to review compliance policies, particularly in light of enhanced requirements. While the U.K. essentially operates a “self-certifying” work permit scheme, employers can be liable for a range of penalties (fines up to £20,000 and suspension or cancellation of their license) plus loss of reputation if they do not have in place the requisite systems to meet ongoing sponsor record-keeping and reporting obligations. Employers are now required to keep on file all documents relating to sponsor license applications, all shortlisted applications that form part of a Resident Labour Market Test, and copies of employees’ qualifications including degree certificates, among other documents. BAL has prepared a compliance guide for employers, and is available to provide audits and further training on the rules and our various support tools if needed. Please contact your BAL professional for assistance.

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

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