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UKBA announces changes to Tier 2 Scheme!

18 February 2011

The UK Border Agency has published a Statement of Intent affecting the eligibility criteria for Tier 2 applications in the wake of the annual cap to be introduced on 6 April 2011. In particular, all Tier 2 jobs will need to be at a graduate level position. Significantly, prospective Tier 2 migrants will not necessarily have to hold an academic qualification, however they will need to show the required skills to meet the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) recently amended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

As a  result, the UKBA will no longer award points for individual qualifications. In addition, the necessary scoring criteria are going to be amended whereby a job with a salary less then £20,000 will no longer qualify. The UKBA has also divided Tier 2 applications between "restricted" and "unrestricted". Only the former will require a UK employer to be issued with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

For a "restricted" CoS, an applicant will need to claim at least 32 points  according to the newly revised table. For instance, if the vacancy is found in the shortage occupation list, the prospective migrant worker will automatically be able to score 75 points.  In a different case scenario, if the job needs to be advertised, the applicant will be able to claim 30 points, while the remaining two points necessary to qualify might be met with a  salary above £20K.

The Tier 2 General category will be limited by an annual cap of 20,700 CoS.  In the first month, the UKBA plans to issue 4200 CoS, while the monthly quota for the remaining 11 months will be 1500. The UKBA also intends to  allocate CoS according to the ranking criteria mentioned above. Therefore, an applicant who is able to score 105 points (75 for shortage occupation and 30 for a  salary above £100K) will be selected above an applicant with a lower scoring assessment. An employer, who has applied for, but has not been allocated  a CoS, will need to reapply  the following month.

In addition,  the English language requirement has also been raised from basic to intermediate (at level B1 of the Common European Framework  of Reference for Languages). However, the English language requirement for Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer has remained unaltered.

Those applications which  fall into the "unrestricted" category will not require an employer to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship. They are listed below:

• Intra Company Transfers;
• Tier 2 migrants extending their stay with their original employer;
• Tier 2 migrants with valid leave extending their stay by switching to a new employer;
• those admitted in another category of stay and applying to switch in-country into the Tier 2 (general) category;
• where transitional arrangements for those already in the United Kingdom as a Tier 2 migrant or work permit holder apply;
• those seeking admission to fill a vacancy attracting a salary of £150,000 or more; or
• Tier 2 Sports People or Ministers of Religion

The Intra-Company Transfer route (not subject to the annual quota) will also be changed. The job will have to be listed in an occupation on the graduate occupation. Further, only those applicants paid £40,000 or more will be able to stay for more than a year. They will be granted for 3 years with the possibility of extending for a further 2 years. Finally, those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for no longer than 12 months, at which point they must leave and will not be able to re-apply for 12 months.

The UKBA has not yet published the criteria to qualify under the new Exceptional Talent category or the revised points for the Tier 1 Investor or Entrepreneur. However, it can be concluded from the Statement of Intent that the goalpost has clearly shifted in favour of those employers and applicants with a higher salary on offer.

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