The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is an independent, non-statutory, non-time limited, non-departmental public body that advises the government on migration issues. Recently, they conducted a review of the Intra-Company Transfer visa route to explore what is working about it and review what needs to be changed. This inspection was requested by the Home Secretary Priti Patel in order to ensure the route complies with the UK’s commitments under free trade agreements and to open a debate on eligibility criteria for workers being transferred and the sending organisations transferring them.
What is the Intra-Company Visa?
An Intra-company visa allows international companies to send staff between their UK and overseas branches, either to provide or receive training or work on a particular project for a short period of time. By such visa, an applicant is able tto come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job in the UK.
There are 2 types of Intra-company visa.
Intra-company Transfer visa
This visa is for more skilled workers. It should be applied for where the applicant is being transferred by their employer to a senior role in the UK.
The applicant will need to have worked for the employer overseas for more than 12 months, unless that company is going to pay such an applicant £73,900 a year or more to work in the UK.
This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Long-term Staff visa.
Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
This visa is for junior staff who are transferred to the UK as part of a graduate training programme for a managerial or specialist role.
Applicants will need to have worked for their employer overseas for at least 3 months immediately before the date they apply.
This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Graduate Trainee visa.
To qualify for an Intra-company visa, you must:
- Have worked for the overseas sending company for a certain period of time as stated above.
- Work for a UK organisation that’s been approved by the Home Office as a sponsor
- have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
- do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations
- be paid at least £41,500 for an Intra-company Transfer visa or at least £23,000 for an Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
What were the advantages of the ICT according to the MAC?
The main remaining advantages of using the ICT route, according to the MAC, are:
- the lack of English language test requirement; unlike the general skilled worker visa where applicants will need to have an English level of no lower than B1, ICT visa does not need applicants to possess any English.
- The inclusion of some allowances, particularly housing costs, when assessing whether a worker meets the salary threshold;
- The multiple-entry aspect of the visa allows more flexibility for time spent in the UK over the duration of the visa; and
- The requirement for workers to only meet the salary threshold for the route when working in the UK (rather than throughout the validity period of the visa).
What does the MAC recommend changing?
Switching and settlement:
One of the more significant recommendations we can see is that the MAC said the ICT route should be a route to settlement and time spent on it should count towards settlement if the worker switches into another route. This could be a vital change for those workers who want to make the UK their permanent home.
It was suggested in the report that salary thresholds for this visa should be calculated in the same manner and with much the same thresholds. However, one exception is that the ICT threshold could increase from £41,500 to £42,400 and Intra-Company Graduate Transfer threshold be set at the same level as graduates on the Skilled Worker route, being £20,480 rather than the current £23,000, or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation with a 30% discount, whichever is the higher. Salary thresholds for the route should be updated annually.
Allowances and reported salaries:
Another minor suggestion made by MAC is that the sponsors should be more transparent with the applicant’s remuneration by providing a complete breakdown of allowances so that the Home Office can easily decide whether the reported salary is accurate to prevent any abuse going on within the route.
Sole representative of an Overseas business:
Notably, the MAC made two important recommendations regarding the sole representative visa for an overseas business or newspaper/media, which are:
- The maximum term of the visa should be reduced to two years, which will enable the representative to establish the subsidiary/branch which he/she is sent for. As soon as the mission is done, the representative should switch to skilled worker visa. These two years will also count toward settlement, should the representative decide to apply for it in the future.
- There should be a trial ‘team subsidiary’ visa, of up to five applicants per team, where at least one member of the team meeting the criteria of the current Representative of an overseas business visa route, while the other members of the team must at least meet the requirements of the Skilled Worker route. It would remain necessary to have a sponsor licence for the team members. This visa would also last for two years.
This is an interesting idea, as a team of workers coming to the UK could be beneficial for both the sponsoring company and the UK as a whole, attracting hard workers who come to the country with an ambition of building up a business to be successful here.
The MAC also suggested that the permitted activities under the Immigration Rules under the visitor route should be expanded to allow ICT workers to carry out specialist technical work which only requires a few days or weeks to complete. If needed, this could potentially put in place a fast-track system if the workers were only going to be in the UK for a short amount of time. This will save the workers from applying for an ICT visas which are more expensive and take longer to be granted.
What do we think?
There are some positive ideals here, particularly in the case of the ICT visa being a route to settlement, which could open doors for a more permanent stay in the UK for many people. Why should time spent on the ICT not count towards time leading up to settlement? The applicant is in the UK and working on a legitimate visa, so we see no reason to oppose this notion. It also makes sense to allow visitors to undertake a certain short term of ICT work.
As to the sole representative visa, the recommendation is more in line with the primary purpose of such visa. Once the subsidiary is established, the sole representative’s job is done. If he/she wants to stay in the UK, it will have to be in another capacity.
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