UK visa rules to be stricter from tomorrow; citizens from India, non-EU countries to be affected

In line with US President Donald Trump announcing more stringent rules for H-1B visas to the US, the UK Home Office from tomorrow is set to implement tougher and more expensive visa rules announced last year, affecting Indians and other nationals from outside the European Union (EU).

The Tier 2 category of visas, a route used by many Indians and other nationals from outside the EU, will undergo a major set of changes under the new rules.

The rules for immigrants from non-EU countries have become stricter.
The rules for immigrants from non-EU countries have become stricter. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

Companies in the UK hiring workers from outside the EU, such as Indians, will have to shell out an additional 1,000-pound annual ‘Immigration Skills Charge’, announced in March last year.

"Set at 1,000 pounds per employee per year, and a reduced rate of 364 pounds for small or charitable organisations, it (Immigration Skills Charge) is designed to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and incentivise training British staff to fill those jobs," the UK Home Office said.

An exemption to the charge is that it will not apply to PhD-level jobs and international students switching from student visas to working visas — "a key protection to help retain the talented workers and students who are vital in helping the British economy grow", the Home Office added.

The latest charge is among wider changes made to the Tier 2 visa regime to cut immigration numbers from countries outside the EU and tighten visa regulations.

The UK government had announced that professionals such as teachers, nurses and social workers from countries like India would have to provide certification from their home country on applying for a Tier 2 visa to live and work in the UK and disclose whether they have any criminal convictions.

From this week, skilled migrants in this category will now be required to provide a criminal record check certificate from any countries they have lived in for more than 12 months in the past 10 years. An applicant's partner, or a partner wishing to join an existing skilled migrant worker in the same sectors, will also be asked to produce a certificate.

Some of the other changes include those applying for a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa being required to pay a health surcharge of 200 pounds per person per year.

The minimum salary level that UK-based sponsors can offer a Tier 2 (General) worker has been increased from 25,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds for experienced workers.

The latest rules are part of tougher measures being introduced after a review by the UK's independent Migration Advisory Committee recommended changes to the visa system last year. Some of the new provisions are listed below.

Increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000, with some exemptions.

Increasing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short term staff to £30,000.

Reducing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000 and increasing the number of places to 20 per company per year.

Closing the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category.