Those holding or applying for Tier 2 visas should take note that most of the sponsorship licences are due for renewal, and coinciding with this, the Home Office is visiting all businesses that are currently Tier 2 licensed. Changes affecting Tier 2 and other UK visas were announced to take effect from 6th April 2015, including a new healthcare surcharge that significantly adds to the expense for Tier 2 visa applicants and many other migrants.
5th April saw an across-the-board increase in Home Office fees, with many who wish to stay in the UK beyond six months finding that a healthcare surcharge had been added to their immigration application, amounting to £200 per year – or £150 per year for students. Applicants’ dependents are also charged the same amount.
An immigration application cannot now be submitted without the full payment of the health surcharge. This means that a person applying for a three year Tier 2 visa is required to pay £600 upfront, with the same charge applying to their spouse and dependents. Whether or not the applicant has private healthcare makes no difference to the charge. There are, however, some exemptions from the surcharge, such as for Tier 2 ICT visa applicants, EU citizens and their dependents and those on visas valid for as long as six months.
Other minor changes have also been introduced for Tier 2 visas. These include amendments to the minimum salary thresholds, which in the case of Tier 2 General employees, has risen from £20,500 to £20,800. This and other changes apply to applications made after 6th April 2015, with some minor alterations to the Shortage Occupations List having also been implemented.
Paramedics have been added to the list of graduate occupations in the UK health sector, for example, alongside such other additions in the medical field as radiology consultants and training roles in emergency medicine. Nor will there now be a ‘cooling off’ period for short-term Tier 2 visas, which will benefit firms wishing to transfer employees to the UK for a period of three months or less.
In January, the government announced a crackdown on bogus Tier 2 visa sponsorships, which was predicted to lead to the enforced exit from the country of as many as 2,500 migrants. In this climate, it is all the more important for prospective applicants for or current holders of Tier 2 visas to seek the most appropriate advice from informed immigration solicitors, including seeking a health check as the health surcharge comes into force.