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Immigration Law Challenges in 2016

1 February 2016

Major changes to Tier 2

In 2015, the Government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake a comprehensive review of Tier 2 (the main category of work visas for the UK), with the aim of reducing the numbers in this category. The MAC’s report was published on 19 January and recommends the following major changes to Tier 2:

  • Minimum wage thresholds raised to £30,000 p.a. for Tier 2 General and ICT (Short-Term Staff), with a lower threshold of £23,000 for new entrants into Tier 2 General and for the ICT graduate trainee route.
  • Introduction of an annual new Immigration Skills Charge of approximately £1,000 per sponsored worker, applicable to both Tier 2 General and ICT routes. They also recommend extending the Immigration Health Surcharge to ICT migrants.
  • Greater scrutiny of Certificates of Sponsorship for ICT workers to ensure the role is sufficiently skilled, a minimum of 2 years’ service before qualifying for an ICT (rather than the current 12 months) and a new ICT route specifically designed for 3rd party contracting.

We expect that the MAC’s report will form the basis of major changes to be made to Tier 2 this year, likely around April 2016. Although the exact nature of the changes is not yet known, it is highly probable that their effect will impact on employers’ ability to hire and retain migrant workers and to make it more expensive for them to do so.

We will send out further updates to clients as and when more information about the proposed changes becomes available.

Renewed crackdown on illegal working

The Immigration Bill 2016 contains a number of new measures designed to combat illegal working. The proposals include:

The creation of a new Director of Labour Enforcement to better coordinate existing regulators and channel enforcement resources towards reducing exploitation of workers.

A new Immigration Skills Charge will effectively impose a ‘tax’ on employers wishing to hire from overseas. The funds levied will be used to fund apprenticeships and other programmes designed to up-skill the resident labour market (this is also recommended in the MAC report, see above).

Those who work in the UK without the right to do so will risk committing a criminal offence themselves (on top of the existing offence for employers) and a new power to seize earnings from illegal employment. Employers who repeatedly incur penalties under the civil regime will also face harsher fines.

Right to rent

The right to rent scheme has now been rolled out nationwide. The scheme introduces a prohibition on landlords renting residential properties to adults who do not have the ‘right to rent’.

However, it is unlawful for landlords or their agents to discriminate against potential tenants on the grounds of race or nationality and they must remember that British or EEA national are not the only categories of persons who have the ‘right to rent’; those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, the ‘right of abode’ in the UK, a valid long-term UK visa and family members of EEA nationals are also included.

If you would like more information about the right to rent scheme, please see our recent webinar which can be accessed here.

This article was written by Katherine Dennis and Rose Carey. For more information, please contact Katherine on +44 (0)20 7427 6738 or at katherine.dennis@crsblaw.com or Rose on +44 (0)20 7427 6524 or at rose.carey@crsblaw.com.