New UK visa curbs to hit Indians, non-EU nations from April 6
A series of new visa restrictions that will affect Indian and other non-EU countries come into effect from April 6, including an ‘immigration skills charge’ of £1000 per year, higher salary thresholds and a health surcharge.
The skills charge has been put in place with a view to ‘incentivising employers to invest in training British staff’, official sources said. The funds collected are meant to be put into programmes to provide skills to British nationals. It is levied per non-EU employee recruited, per year.
The measures will substantially increase the cost of application for Tier 2 visas by employers and is intended to reduce Britain’s perceived dependence on non-EU workers. After Brexit, the same curbs may be applied for EU citizens seeking to work in the United Kingdom.
The restrictions come at a time when the Theresa May government is keen to project a more open role for the United Kingdom after leaving the EU. India is among the key countries it intends to forge a free trade agreement, while Indian representatives have often mentioned mobility (visa) of professionals as an important aspect of negotiations.
New curbs will also apply to the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa, which is mostly issued to Indian IT and other companies to transfer employees to their offices in the UK. From April 6, dependents of ICT visa holders and dependents will be required to pay health surcharge of £200 per year.
The closure of the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term Staff category means that all ICT professionals, except graduate trainees, must qualify under a single route with a salary threshold of £41,500. The salary threshold for ICT Long Term Staff category has been reduced from £155,300 to £120,000; these high earners can stay in the route for up to nine years, rather than the usual five years.
From April 6, non-EU nationals coming to take up jobs in the UK in the health, education and social sectors will be required to furnish a police clearance certificate as part of their visa applications, adding another dimension to the visa process.
There are some exemptions to the skills charge and other categories, but industry and business organisations had represented to the government to reconsider the changes in view of difficulties in hiring professionals with the required skills.