News story

Visa changes to reduce reliance on foreign workers

Government announces reforms to the skilled worker visa.

The government has today (Thursday 24 March) announced reforms to the skilled worker visa to protect job opportunities for UK residents and reduce UK businesses’ reliance on foreign workers.

The changes to the Tier 2 visa are designed to stop businesses using foreign workers to undercut wages, while continuing to support growth and productivity in the UK economy.

The reforms will generate further investment in the UK skills base and encourage leading graduates to stay and work in this country once they have finished their studies.

The government commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise on reducing economic migration from outside Europe and to look at restricting skilled work visas to genuine skills shortages and highly specialist experts.

Following a series of recommendations put forward by the MAC in January, a package of reforms has been published today which includes:

  • an increase in the minimum salary threshold for experienced workers using Tier 2, to £25,000 in Autumn 2016 and £30,000 in April 2017 (selected occupations such as nurses, paramedics and some teachers will be exempt from this rise until July 2019)
  • the introduction of an immigration skills charge for each non-EEA worker an employer wants to bring to the UK
  • new measures that will allow companies to hire more graduate trainees
  • simplification of Intra Company Transfers visas to ensure that international companies only transfer leading senior managers and specialists to the UK

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:

This balanced package of changes has been designed to ensure our immigration system continues to work in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas.

It will prevent companies using foreign workers to undercut wages in this country and will help fund training schemes to give British workers the skills they need to help our economy grow further. At the same time, it will ensure that we are still able to attract nurses and other skilled migrants to the UK.

Also today, the MAC published a report on nurses being placed on the shortage occupation list. Last year the Home Secretary ordered that nurses should be temporarily added to the list to ease pressure on the NHS while UK staff are trained to fill vacancies. The MAC advised that this should continue and this has been accepted by the government.

The written ministerial statement announcing the changes is also available.