• Work Permit Cap to Remain Steady When Reforms to Skilled Worker Visa Programs Take Effect
  • April 10, 2012
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • The annual caps on Tier 2 skilled workers will remain at current levels for the next two years, but new eligibility and recruitment requirements will take effect for the category beginning June 14, the UK Border Agency has announced. UKBA will also introduce a new premium customer service program for select Tier 2 sponsoring employers.

    Tier 2 Cap for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014

    The cap on admissions under Tier 2 will remain at last year’s level of 20,700 in 2012-2013 and 2013-14. The UKBA is moving from a twelve-month to a two-year cap cycle based on feedback from employers, who have asked for fewer and less frequent policy changes.

    The UK introduced an annual cap on Tier 2 admissions last year. It applies to non-European Union workers applying for the Tier 2 (General) category from outside the UK who will be paid less than £150,000 annually and to dependents of Tier 4 visa holders changing to Tier 2 status. The annual limit does not apply to intracompany transferees.

    Increased Tier 2 Skill Level Requirements

    Effective June 14, the minimum skill level for a Tier 2 occupation will increase to level 6 or higher of the UK’s National Vocational Qualification standards (NQF6+). Level 6 broadly equates to a bachelor's degree or professional certificate. Currently, occupations can qualify for Tier 2 at NQF4+, which is broadly equivalent to a diploma-level educational background.

    When the minimum Tier 2 skill level is increased, 27 occupations will no longer qualify. A full list of these occupations is available in Appendix B of the UKBA’s announcement.

    To lessen the impact of the increase in minimum skill levels, Tier 2 will remain open to NQF4 occupations that appear on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List and to specified jobs in creative fields, such as artists, authors, actors, dancers and designers.

    Resident Labor Market Test Requirements Eased for Highly Paid and Ph.D. Positions

    Beginning June 14, the Resident Labor Market Test (RLMT) recruitment requirements will be relaxed for jobs paying over £70,000 annually and select Ph.D. positions. Employers will still have to advertise proposed job openings for these positions, but they will no longer be required to do so in Jobcentre Plus. The specified Ph.D. level positions and their corresponding SOC codes are:

    • 1137 - Research and Development Managers
    • 2111 - Chemists
    • 2112 - Biological Scientists and Research Chemists
    • 2113 - Physicists, Geologists and Meteorologists
    • 2311 - Higher Education Teaching Professionals
    • 2321 - Scientific Researchers
    • 2322 - Social Science Researchers
    • 2329 - Researchers Not Elsewhere Classified

    An RMLT for the select Ph.D. positions will remain valid for twelve months, meaning employers will be able to recruit a foreign worker within twelve months of advertising the position. For all other non-shortage occupation jobs, the validity of an RLMT will remain six months.

    In addition, employers will be able to sponsor a foreign national for any select Ph.D. occupation if he or she is the best candidate for the position, even if there are suitable local workers available. Currently, if suitable local workers are available, a position cannot be filled by a foreign worker.

    Premium Customer Service Program for Select Tier 2 Sponsors

    On April 6, the UKBA will launch a new two-tier premium customer service program that will offer sponsoring employers an enhanced level of customer service, including priority treatment for some types of requests, a dedicated contact person within the UKBA and access to office appointments for public inquiries. There will be an annual fee £25,000 for the top tier service and £8,000 for the second tier.

    To qualify for premium service, an employer must be A-rated in all tiers of their sponsorship license and have received no civil penalties in the preceding three years. Employers must complete a compliance check before or during the application process.