Comments by Sanwar Ali:
The new version of the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa category from 1 January 2021 will include one change, that will be very much welcomed by overseas workers. You will be able to switch to a Tier 2 General visa, probably in most situations, if sponsored by another employer. Many employees are very unhappy about the current restriction which means that they cannot change employer in the UK. Some employers may of course see this as a benefit!
There seems to be some uncertainty over how the Tier 2 intra-company transfer visa category will be like in the longer term after the review. If there is an ongoing economic downturn next year will the opportunity be taken by the Migration Advisory Committee and the Government, to make the Tier 2 ICT visa category and other categories more difficult to obtain?
UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has commissioned the so-called independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa category. In a letter sent to the MAC by Patel, she said: “The purpose of this letter is to commission the MAC to undertake a study of the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) immigration route.”
The review is expected to last around 12 months and will assess the salary and skills threshold applied to the UK visa category. According to the Home Secretary’s letter, the long-term goal for the ICT route is for it to ‘sit alongside a new skilled worker route’ under the new points-based system that comes into operation on 1 January, 2021.
An excerpt from the letter, sent to MAC Chair Professor Brian Bell, reads: “It is our intention that the ICT route should sit alongside the new skilled worker route in the new points-based immigration system that we are launching in January and that the terms of the ICT route should, initially, be the same as now.”
“However, it is several years since the MAC last looked at the ICT route and I would be grateful if you could consider the operation and effectiveness of that route,” Patel’s letter added.
Differences to Tier 2 (General) visa
It’s understood that the MAC has been commissioned to review the salary threshold of the ICT route, primarily identifying what aspects, if any, beyond base salary should count toward meeting the minimum salary threshold and whether, as currently, different arrangements should be applicable to high earners.
Patel’s letter also instructs the MAC to review what the skills threshold should be for the visa category and what conditions should apply to the route. In particular, Patel has asked to see evidence of where the ICT visa differs from the Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visa.
The ICT visa category currently comes under the Tier 2 skilled worker route. According to the most recent Home Office data, Indian nationals account for almost half (48%) of all Tier 2 visas granted in the year ending June 2020.
High cost burden of Tier 2 ICT visa
The issue of high costs associated with Tier 2 ICT visas for Indian firms has been raised frequently by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The minimum salary threshold of the visa, combined with the Immigration Skills charge and the Immigration Health Surcharge, means that costs run into the thousands, even ten of thousands for some firms.
The CII has urged the UK government to introduce a ‘Social Security Agreement’ between the UK and India to provide a return on benefits toward the annual contribution of Indian firms to Britain’s economy.
The Indian IT industry has welcomed the new, points-based UK immigration system, in the hope that several challenges that Indian citizens have faced in the past have been resolved.
Mobility offer for overseas businesses
In addition to a review of the ICT visa route, the Home Office has announced that it plans to expand its ‘mobility offer’, which will enable overseas businesses to send teams of workers to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK or undertake a secondment in relation to a high-value contract for goods and services.
The mobility offer is currently available to a single worker only.
Patel’s letter said: “We would be grateful for the MAC’s advice on where we should set any criteria on the eligibility of workers (e.g. skill and salary thresholds) and the sending organisations (e.g. size of company, value of investment or contract, potential job creation etc).”
October 2021 deadline for MAC review
In reply to Patel’s letter, MAC chairman Professor Bell requested access to Home Office administrative records to commence its review and report back its findings by the October 2021 deadline.
Bell said: “As part of this commission we expect to undertake our usual Call for Evidence and also run engagement events with key stakeholders. However, given the nature of ICTs, where we believe most of the usage is by a limited number of companies, this may take a slightly different format to our usual approach.”
“In addition to any public evidence we will also undertake our usual data analysis and modelling, as necessary,” Bell added.
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