Changes to the United Kingdom’s Immigration Laws Announced

Recently Zelnick & Erickson wrote about possible immigration law changes in the US and Canada.  As many of our clients have offices in the United Kingdom and individuals applying for work permits there, we summarize recent changes to the UK’s immigration laws and administrative agencies.

Changes to the United Kingdom’s Border Agency

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May recently announced that the U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) was to be abolished and that its operations would return to the Home Office.  Additionally, the UKBA will be split into multiple divisions, with one division focusing on the U.K. visa system and visa processing and another division focusing on enforcement of immigration laws.  Home Secretary May announced these changes as solutions to agency’s increasing workload, insufficient accountability, technical inadequacies, and the complex governing legal framework.

Changes to the United Kingdom’s Tier 2 Classification

A points-based immigration system is used in the United Kingdom to regulate immigration to the United Kingdom from outside the European Economic Area.  The system is administered by the UKBA, which is currently being abolished.  The Tier 2 category is reserved for foreign nationals who wish to enter the U.K. or remain in the U.K. in a skilled worker position for which there is no suitable U.K. worker.

The changes being made to the Tier 2 program include an increase in the minimum salary levels, being administered on one of two levels.  “New entrants” – workers under the age of 25, recent foreign graduates transferring to Tier 2 from Tier 4, recruited graduates whose sponsoring employer recruited at a university, and applicants being sponsored through the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) graduate trainee category – will be subject to a lower minimum salary threshold, while all other workers will be subject to a higher minimum salary threshold.  The changes are being implemented in response to inflation.

Changes to the Resident Labor Market Test

When an U.K. employer wishes to recruit a foreign worker from outside the U.K. workforce for a Tier 2 skilled worker position that is not on the list of “shortage occupations,” that employer must complete a Resident Labor Market Test (RLMT) and demonstrate that there are no qualified U.K. workers for that position.  Now, employers wishing to recruit a foreign worker for one of these Tier 2 skilled worker positions can advertise their open position online through a government run job center and through one additional method.  The additional methods of advertising include newspapers, professional journals, rolling recruitment programs, and privately run job bank websites.  Prior to this change, U.K. employers could only advertise through government run job centers.  The changes are being implemented to modernize the program.