The current Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) (ICT) route is a highly useful tool to bring staff employed at your international offices to the UK. From 1 January 2021 the new Skilled Worker category will replace Tier 2 (General) and the new immigration system will also have a separate ICT category.
Based on the current intended rules of the new immigration system, the ICT category may not be used as much as it has been under Tier 2. The ICT category has the benefit of no English language requirement but in any event the plan is for the Skilled Worker category to not require a resident labour market test advertisement process. Plus unlike the ICT category the Skilled Worker category will lead to indefinite leave to remain (ILR). So many employers may well choose to use the Skilled Worker route whenever possible.
Review of the ICT category
Last week it was revealed the Home Secretary asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review how the ICT category in the new immigration system should work in the future. The MAC is to report back by October 2021 and so any changes are unlikely to be made until the end of next year at the earliest. The MAC will consider a range of options which could make the new ICT category more useful, including whether the following features should change in the future:
- The salary threshold. Unlike the lower salary levels of the new Skilled Worker category, from the start of next year it is currently intended that the new ICT category will retain the higher Tier 2 (ICT) salary threshold of £41,500 or the going rate for the type of role, whichever is higher.
- The skill level. As with salary, from the start of next year the higher Tier 2 (ICT) skill threshold of Regulated Qualifications Framework level 6 will continue to apply. For Skilled Worker applications the skills threshold is going to be reduced to level 3 meaning many more types of roles will qualify.
- Other payments on top of base salary. Under the new Skilled Worker and ICT rules intended to apply from the start of next year, only base salary and not any other allowances or bonuses will count.
- Concessions for the highly paid. Under the current Tier 2 (ICT) rules, those paid £120,000 or above can stay in the UK for 9 years rather than the standard 5. From the start of next year, the new ICT route is also expected to have such a concession for the highly paid.
- Conditions attached to ICT visas. Whilst unclear, this could mean the MAC will consider the length of time which can be spent under the ICT route, whether it should lead to ILR and also whether the ‘cooling off’ rules should apply. From the start of next year, the often complicated Tier 2 cooling off rules are set to be simplified for those with an ICT visa under the new immigration system. The rule is expected to be that the ICT visa holder cannot have held an ICT visa for longer than 5 years in the last 6 years, unless they qualify under the highly paid concession to stay longer.