Changes to the Points-Based Immigration System

08 September 2009

Ian Hunter, Stephen Musgrave, Jonathan Goldsworthy

A raft of new measures are due to be implemented by the UK Border Agency designed to ensure that British workers have every possible opportunity to fill vacancies before employers are permitted to recruit migrant workers.

In November 2008 the UK Border Agency dramatically overhauled the way in which companies can employ migrant workers by introducing Tier 2 of its Points-Based Immigration System ("PBS").

In February 2009 the UK Border Agency asked the Migration Advisory Committee (a non-departmental public body which advises on labour market shortages and other immigration matters) whether there was an "economic case" for restructuring Tier 2.

The UK Border Agency yesterday (7 September 2009) accepted all of the Migration Advisory Committee's 16 recommendations to further amend Tier 2 of the PBS which were set out in its August 2009 report.

Although a specific date has not yet been set, the key changes which are scheduled to come into force next year are that:

  • all jobs under the Tier 2 (General) category will have to be advertised in JobCentre Plus for four weeks before companies can look to recruit from outside the European Economic Area. Currently, jobs must be advertised for one week if the salary is over £40,000 or two weeks in all other cases;

  • employees of international companies will have to be employed by the overseas company for, at least, one year (rather than six months as at present) before they can transfer to working the UK under the Intra-Company Transfer category;

  • the minimum salary that will allow an individual to qualify as a skilled worker under Tier 2 will rise from £17,000 to £20,000.

Clearly, these changes will impact upon the way in which companies (particularly international organisations) can recruit and transfer staff to the UK. We would therefore recommend that:

  • companies review their recruitment and other related HR policies to ensure they are fully prepared for the changes;

  • companies consider any potential international assignments/secondments now in order that applications can be submitted in advance of the rule change if necessary; and

  • anyone involved in the recruitment of staff is made aware of the changes so that strategies can be put in place to manage the impact on project timescales caused by the increased period of advertising.