18 Nov 2021

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned by the Home Office in September 2020 to review the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) immigration route – this route is significant to many UK employers with non UK employees, as it allows transfers to be completed swiftly and easily.

It is more straightforward than the Skilled Worker route, allowing employees to come for periods of up to nine years without the need to, for example, provide proof that they speak English. Following the review, changes have been proposed for three main purposes, namely to:

  • Ensure compliance with the UK’s commitments under free trade agreements.
  • Assess the eligibility criteria for the ICT route.
  • Comment on future immigration routes enabling multinational companies to send employees to the UK to set up and run a new subsidiary.

We summarise below the key recommendations in the recently published MAC report.

1.Settlement

The main recommendation was that time spent on the ICT route should lead to settlement for workers. This would be a significant change to the current position where ICT workers are not eligible for settlement in the UK. It would also make this immigration route much more attractive to foreign employees wishing to reside permanently in the UK.

2. Salary Threshold

In relation to eligibility, an increased salary threshold of £42,400 (from £41,500) was suggested, with a decreased threshold for Graduate Trainees of £20,480. This remains higher than the salary requirement for many occupations under the Skilled Worker route.

3. Allowances

Unlike other immigration routes, the ICT route allows for certain guaranteed allowances to be counted as part of an applicant meeting the salary threshold. Increased monitoring and enforcement were recommended in the MAC report in order to determine whether there has been abuse of this provision to date.

Employers should remain conscious of the need to verify whether allowances are genuinely eligible when calculating an employee’s salary for the purposes of the ICT route.

4. Immigration Health Surcharge

The UK has committed to exempt EU ICT workers from the scope of the Immigration Health Surcharge by 1 January 2023. This commitment was reiterated in the MAC report and is set to save UK businesses that sponsor EU nationals thousands of pounds each year.

5. Subsidiaries

At present, the Representative of an Overseas Business (Sole Representative) visa allows one employee of an overseas business to obtain a visa to set up and run a UK subsidiary or branch. The MAC’s key recommendations were:

  • To reduce the visa period for a sole representative to two years and remove the ability to extend it.
  • To introduce a two-year trial of a ‘Team Subsidiary’ route. This route would be available for up to five applicants. At least one of the applicants would be required to meet the current requirements of a Sole Representative and the remaining four applicants would need to respectively meet the requirements of a Skilled Worker.

All in all, we see the changes as potentially benefiting UK based employers – they would provide overseas businesses with far more flexibility in relation to setting up a subsidiary in the UK. In particular, a senior employee and four junior colleagues could arrive simultaneously in the UK, enabling the the UK branch or subsidiary to become established much more quickly.  

What happens next?

Although we see these changes as potentially positive for employers, they are, importantly, recommendations only – as yet, the MAC have given no indication of when we can expect them to come into force. Watch this space.


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