|February 12, 2014|
Previously published on February 10, 2014
The Home Office has published proposed regulations to increase immigration application fees and implement a number of other changes, including extending to five years the maximum visa validity for both the general and intracompany transferee subcategories of Tier 2. Most of the changes are expected to take effect on April 1, 2014, though they are subject to parliamentary approval.
Changes for Tier 2
Foreign nationals applying for visas under either the general or the intracompany transferee subcategory of Tier 2 will be able to request an initial validity period of five years. Currently, Tier 2 applicants can request a maximum validity of three years.
The option of a longer visa validity period is being made available in response to requests from employers. However, employers should exercise caution when considering whether to sponsor longer term Tier 2 visas. The potential tax implications and ongoing compliance obligations for monitoring salary levels and occupational roles of longer stays should be weighed against the convenience of employees having longer term visas.
Despite the overall fee increases, sponsorship fees for frequent Tier 2 employers will be reduced, while several other sponsorship fees will remain unchanged. In addition, the filing fee for Tier 2 applications submitted on behalf of foreign nationals who will work in shortage occupations will be reduced to £428. The current fee is £514 for overseas applicants and £610 for in-country applications.
Immigration Fee Increases
The majority of immigration fees will be raised by four percent, though there also will be targeted increases for certain applications to avoid larger across-the-board increases. The 25% fee discount for dependents who are included in a principal’s application will be eliminated. The fee to submit applications in person at a Premium Service Center will increase to £400, up from £375; and the priority postal fee available for Tier 2 applications will increase to £300, up from £275.
The Home Office aims to fund customer service improvements with the fee increases. In addition, an annual fee of £50 will be introduced for the registered traveler program, which will transition from a pilot to a permanent program.
Further Expansion of Overseas Expedited Processing and Customer Service Options
The Home Office will continue to expand options for overseas expedited visa processing and customer service. A three to five-day priority visa processing service will be introduced worldwide for a £100 fee; a similar option for permanent residence applications will be offered for a £300 fee. A 24-hour super priority processing service will be available for £600.
The Home Office will open more visa processing centers where foreign nationals can submit applications and biometrics, with a £59 service fee to use the new centers. Applicants will also be able to make appointments outside of normal office hours for an additional fee of £50.
The Passport Pass-Back program, which allows visa applicants to have their passports returned to them within seven to ten days of submitting their applications, will be offered at more locations. The cost to use the service will be £40 per applicant.
What This Means for Employers
Employers should review the full list of new fees and consider the increased amounts in corporate budgeting and planning.
The option of a longer visa validity period for foreign nationals in Tier 2 is a welcome development for businesses requiring foreign workers for lengthier periods.
Expanded expedited processing and customer service options for overseas applications should streamline filings for many applicants and also provide greater clarity on processing timeframes.