On 18 March 2010 the Home Office announced changes to the Tier 1 (highly skilled workers) and Tier 2 (skilled workers with a job offer) which impact all applications made on or after 6 April 2010
Changes to Tier 1 (General)
New points criteria have been introduced which widen the applicability of the Tier:
- the restriction of this category to those with a Master’s level degree or higher which was imposed in response to the economic downturn has been lifted. Not only can applicants with Bachelor’s degrees once again qualify if they score enough points in other areas but for the first time individuals will no degree-level qualifications could qualify under this category if their previous earnings are sufficient;
- he threshold for the award of points based on the migrant’s age has been lifted from 32 to 40;
- however, the minimum earnings threshold has increased to £25,000 (from £20,000).
In a reversal of previous policy, successful first-time applicants under this tier will now be granted leave to remain for a shorter period of two years initially (rather than three years) but successful applications for an extension will be granted a further three years (rather than two years). The new points table will not apply to migrants who are in the UK in Tier 1 (General) with leave granted before 6 April 2010.
Changes to Tier 2 (General) and (Intra-Company Transfer)
Again, a new points table has been introduced which is intended, in part, to offer more flexibility for multinational companies to transfer employees on a short term basis between associated companies.
- migrants with Master’s degrees will now be awarded a greater number of points than before, 15 rather than 10;
- he qualifying period of employment for Intra-Company Transfers has been increased so that migrants must now work for their employer outside the UK for a minimum of 12 months (rather than six) before they can qualify for a transfer to the UK;
- the minimum earnings threshold has increased to £20,000 (from £17,000).
Although the changes will widen the Tier 1 rules to allow migrants with little or no formal education to qualify for immigration, the Government has commented that the changes will mean “that only those that we need to come to the UK to work can do so”.
Immigration is a hot topic in the current General Election campaign and the Conservative party has pledged to set specific limits on the numbers of non-EEA residents permitted to come and live and work in the UK. A change in Government may signal further changes to the points-based immigration system.