Government plans to tighten Tier 2 migration policy

The Government has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise on changes to Tier 2 to address concerns about the rising numbers of migrants using Tier 2 and the reliance on them to fill shortages. The new MAC commission is split into two parts, and they are required to provide:

  1. Early advice on Tier 2 salary thresholds to be provided by 21st July 2015;
  2. A wider review of the whole of Tier 2 to be delivered by mid-December 2015.

The MAC has therefore now issued a Call for Evidence relating to the commissioned salary thresholds advice.

The MAC will shortly publish a second Call for Evidence in relation to the wider Tier 2 review but the terms of this wider review have already been set out by MAC in the first document. It is clear that the scope of the review is wide ranging and it may lead to a radical restructuring of the whole Tier 2 scheme with corresponding consequences for employers and foreign nationals.

Salary Thresholds Advice

  1. The MAC has been asked to provide advice on the economic rationale and the impact on net migration of setting new minimum salary thresholds to ensure that Tier 2 migrants are not undercutting the UK resident labour market. Specifically, MAC is asked to consider:
  2. Increasing the Tier 2 (General) minimum salary threshold of £20,800 as well as the minimum salary thresholds of £24,800 under ICT (short term) and £41,500 for ICT (long term) to a level that better aligns with the salaries paid to highly specialised experts or individuals filling shortage occupations skills to NQF level 6 or higher;
  3. Increasing the Tier 2 minimum salaries per occupation for experienced workers from the 25th percentile to the 50th or 75th percentiles, or other appropriate measure;

Increasing the Tier 2 minimum salaries per occupation for new entrant workers from the 10th percentile to the 25th or 50th percentiles, or other appropriate measure.

The Wider Review

The MAC is also commissioned to include advice on the following:

  1. Restricting Tier 2 (General) recruitment, compared with the current rules, to genuine skills shortages and highly specialist experts only. The MAC must consider how Tier 2 (General) and the shortage occupation list should be reformed to achieve this objective but with flexibility to include high value roles, key public service workers and those which require specialist skills. The MAC should advise on selection criteria such as salaries, points for particular attributes, economic need and skills level, and whether such an approach should also operate in respect of intra-company transfers, and the position of those switching from Tier 4;
  2. How to limit the length of time occupations can be classed as having shortages: What would be an appropriate maximum duration and should there be exceptions?
  3. Applying a skills levy for businesses recruiting from outside the EEA, the proceeds from which would fund apprenticeships in the UK;
  4. The impact, on Tier 2 numbers, the economy and the public finances, of restricting the automatic right of the dependants of Tier 2 visa holders to work on their Tier 2 dependant visa;
  5. The scope to tighten the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) provisions and the impact this would have on business and the economy. MAC is asked to review any aspects of the rules and operation of the ICT route including its usage by companies to service business process outsourcing contracts with third parties. In addition, the MAC is asked to consider the case for applying the Immigration Health Surcharge to ICTs.

The MAC has been asked to respond on salary thresholds by 21st July 2015. Consequently, the Call for Evidence in respect of this commission provides for a submission date of 3rd July 2015 from stakeholders.