The influential Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) panel of experts that advises the Home Secretary has published its recommendations for the current review of the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) immigration route.
The MAC was asked to consider the UK’s commitments to such transfers under free trade agreements and report by October 2021. In addition the MAC was also asked to help the Home Office in the design of “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.”
The Skilled Worker sponsor licence has generally become a more appropriate sponsorship category for most employers with a UK presence since it replaced the Tier 2 route, though there are still reasons the ICT route may be preferable, for instance when an English language requirement might otherwise be an obstacle.
The MAC’s new recommendations represent a step in the right direction, and hopefully will be incorporated into the Home Office’s commission into reforming the ICT route in the next few months.
The recommendations include making Intra-Company Transfer a route to settlement, with time under this route counting towards obtaining indefinite leave to remain.
There are no significant changes suggested on skill level, maximum duration, English language requirements, allowances (although MAC recommend greater scrutiny) or salary (to be uplifted annually) for the ICT route. We expect that for the majority of clients the Skilled Worker route – with its lower skills and salary thresholds - will continue to be preferable to ICT for bringing employees to work in the UK. However the ICT will not be scrapped as an immigration route as it’s a World Trade Organisation requirement.
The MAC has also made recommendations to create a Team Subsidiary category to enable a Sole Representative of an overseas business to be accompanied by a small team of employees to set up a presence in the UK. The overseas company would have access to some form of sponsor licence to enable checking of the firm. The committee recommends that leave granted in the existing Sole Representative and new Team Subsidiary categories would be for two years initially before switching to a more long-term immigration route.
The MAC also recommends making the provision of secondments for clients of UK export companies (currently within the visitor rules) into a separate category with a £50m contract requirement and 12-month duration (plus one possible extension).
Finally, on short term assignments, the MAC considers expanding visit rules to facilitate time-limited, essential work travel to the UK.