UK to overhaul intra-company transfer visas

The UK's Migration Advisory Committee has been asked by the government to conduct a review of intra-company transfer (ICT) visas in a bid to ensure the system is compatible with the new, points-based immigration rules that come into effect on January 1.

At present, ICTs fall under the umbrella the Tier 2 visa route into the UK but, under the new system, this will be abolished and replaced by a new skilled worker route.There are currently two types of Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visas for staff from outside the European Economic Area. One is for long-term staff who have either worked for a company - which must be a licensed sponsor in the UK - for more than 12 months, unless he or she is going to earn £73,900-plus while in Britain. The other is for graduate trainees with a record of at least three months working for the employer overseas.In a letter to the MAC, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “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.”Ms Patel is asking the independent MAC, chaired by Prof Brian Bell, to advise on a new salary threshold for entry to the ICT route; what elements, if any, beyond base salary should count towards meeting the visa requirement; whether, as now, different arrangements should apply to the very highly paid; what the skills threshold for the route should be; and the conditions of the route, in particular those where it differs from the main skilled worker route.The letter to the MAC added: "Alongside ICTs, the Home Office is seeking to expand its mobility offer to enable overseas businesses to send teams of workers to establish a branch/subsidiary (currently we can only admit a single worker for this purpose) or to undertake a secondment in relation to a high-value contract for goods or services.
"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 (eg, size of company, value of investment or contract, potential job creation, etc)."According to official data, Indian nationals account for 48 per cent of all Tier 2 visas granted in the year to June, with US, Philippines, Nigeria and Australia also figuring prominently in the figures.The Press Trust of India reported: "The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has often raised the issue of a high cost burden of ICT visas faced by Indian companies, as a result of the minimum salary threshold requirement combined with a Skills and Immigration Health Surcharge imposed on such visas."It has, therefore, been pushing for a 'Social Security Agreement' between the UK and India to provide return on benefits towards the annual contribution of Indian firms to the British economy. "Overall, the new points-based system has been welcomed by Indian industry, with the hope that some of these issues will be resolved."In his reply to Ms Patel, Prof Bell said the MAC would issue "our usual Call for Evidence and also run engagement events with key stakeholders", adding that "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".The MAC is expected to make its recommendations to ministers by October next year.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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