The Tory-led UK government, and specifically Prime Minister Theresa May, has been staunchly in favour of curtailing and controlling immigration into the UK. The conservatives have also repeatedly claimed that it’s currently too easy for UK employers to hire non-UK citizens.
In July 2016, MP James Brokenshire was quoted as saying: “In the past it has been too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas, rather than to take the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home.”
The government aims to impose the immigration skills charge to make it harder for UK businesses to hire foreign workers.
The skills charge is an additional levy imposed on UK businesses for each person that they sponsor on a Tier 2 (General) visa. This charge will apply to all positions filled by a non-UK citizen, that could have reasonably been filled by a British citizen.
Companies will have to pay a hefty £1,000 per year, per foreign worker judged to be depriving a Brit of a job. This levy applies to almost every foreign citizen who applies to live and work in the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa.
The government is hoping that it can force employers to invest in training and upskilling local workers to fill these skilled positions, rather than hiring foreigners.
Unfortunately, there are not many exceptions to this charge. There is a reduced levy of £364 for small businesses and charitable organisations.
Your employer will also be exempt from the immigration skills charge if you are a PhD-level graduate switching from a Tier 4 (General) student visa to a Tier 2 visa.
If you’re on a Tier 2 visa and are switching to the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa, your employer won’t be required to pay the levy.
As mentioned above, if the work you do cannot reasonably be done by a UK citizen there will be no immigration skills charge. The Home Office will require proof, supplied by your employer, that this is the case.
While the goals of this immigration skills charge appear to be well-meaning, expats in the UK on Tier 2 and Tier 4 visas are understandably concerned. However, it’s not just non-UK citizens that are raising concerns.
It is presently unclear if the skills charge will help or hinder UK business. It may well be that such provisions could make business more costly and less appealing in the long run, ultimately putting strain on an economy which is going through a tough time of late.