On 25 February 2015, the Secretary of State issued a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, which highlighted a number of changes, most of which came into force on 6 April 2015.
The Tier 2 ‘cooling off’ period was in place to prevent a migrant who was in the UK under Tier 2 within the previous 12 month period being granted leave under Tier 2 again. From 6 April 2015 onwards, the 12 month ‘cooling off period’ where the migrant is assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for three months or less was waived for Tier 2 visas granted for a period of 3 month or less. This enabled employers to sponsor interns and then bring them back to the UK for a permanent job within a one year Period improving flexibility.
With respect to Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer migrants, the qualifying 12 month’s prior employment can now include time spent lawfully employed by a group company in the UK as well as overseas.
The minimum salary thresholds as set out in the Codes of Practice (COP) have increased by 1.2% and the revised salary thresholds will apply from 6 April 2016.
The shortage occupation list has been updated with additional criteria.
The visitor visa regime has been simplified narrowing down the previous 15 routes to 4 routes and business visitors will fall within the visitor (standards) route, also accommodating tourists.
The Home Office is tightening up the Sponsorship Licence regime with additional questions and checks when applying; with current refusal rate sitting at 1 in 3 with a 6 months cooling period for re-application.
The "genuiness" test has been applied more stringently where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job does not genuinely exist or has been exaggerated to meet the Tier 2 skills threshold.
The Labour Market Test has been applied strictly and can be assessed at the sponsorship licence, via application Restrictive Certificate of Sponsorship stage.
Immigration officers have been told to conduct more compliance checks and visits.
Changes to Tier 2 April 2016
The changes made to this route focus on the monthly allocation system of restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS):