On Friday the 6th of September, a written ministerial Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules was laid in Parliament by the Minister of State for Immigration, Mark Harper.
The changes will cover a variety of Immigration categories, including Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 5, student visas and business visitors, and come into effect on the 1st of October.
The most important changes include as follows –
- Introducing changes to Tier 2 to improve flexibility for businesses and applicants
- Allowing Tier 4 graduates who have completed their degrees in the UK to switch into a 12 month internship under Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange category
- Expanding the use of ‘genuineness’ tests in Tiers 1 and 4 and the Minister of Religion category in Tier 2
- Expanding the permissible activities a business visitor can undertake to include internal audits and corporate training where it is provided by a company outside of the person’s employer’s corporate group.
- Amending the Immigration Rules relating to Points-Based System dependants and dependants of other work routes
Businesses and Workers
At present, intra-company transferees only have to show English Language capability if they stay for longer than 3 years, and if they earn over £152,100 they do not need to show English Language capability at all. The statement of changes will remove the English Language requirement for intra-company transferees altogether.
There will also now no longer be share ownership restrictions in Tier 2 on senior staff earning £152,100 or more (previously restricted to no more than 10% shareholding). This will enable company owners and Directors to be able to move to UK branches of their company to work, which could be extremely beneficial for the business if they are helping to expand and grow the company, which in turn would be beneficial for the UK economy as a whole.
Currently for Tier 2 migrants to qualify for settlement, the sponsor must certify that they are still required for their role and that they are being paid at the appropriate rate in accordance with the relevant SOC code. Now in addition, a change is being made to the Rules which will require the sponsor to still hold (or have applied to renew) their Tier 2 Sponsor licence in order to endorse settlement applications.
Other changes to affect workers and businesses include allowing Tier 4 graduates to switch to work as interns under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange scheme. This will allow students who have completed their degrees in the UK to switch into a 12 month internship provided it directly relates to their degree. This will be extremely beneficial to foreign students who graduate in the UK, as it will help them gain some valuable work experience after they graduate. In turn, it will also benefit employers and businesses as they will not need to stick to strict salary thresholds for inexperienced graduates wanting to undertake a short term internship. Please note however, it will not be possible to switch into Tier 2 on completion of the internship.
It will also now be possible for migrants currently in the UK under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur category to be able to benefit from the post-study work provisions when switching into Tier 2 General. This means that sponsors will not have to meet the Resident Labour Market Test requirements and can also use the “new entrant” salary rates.
Finally, there are also some changes being introduced which will affect migrants working in the UK under the Tier 1 General category. These include the introduction of a “genuine earnings” test which will give caseworkers greater scope to test the evidence presented in cases where abuse is suspected. A correction is also being made to the current rules to allow those who were initially granted leave as work permit holders, before switching into Tier 2 (ICT) and then into Tier 1 (General), to count the time spent in all three categories towards the five year qualifying period for settlement.
Expanding the permissible activities a business visitor can undertake
The new rules also include an increase in the permissible activities a business visitor can undertake in the UK. This includes allowing internal auditors from global companies being able to come into the UK to undertake short internal audits as business visitors rather than having to use the Tier 2 ICT route.
Business visitors will now also be able to undertake corporate training where it is for the purposes of their employment overseas, but is not being provided by their employer or the same corporate group, or even a company whose main activity is the provision of training. This will benefit businesses greatly who are perhaps working with subcontractors or clients overseas and who need to provide some specific short-term training to employees of the company overseas.
Points-Based System Dependants
We will see a welcome change to the rules for dependants in the Points Based System and other work routes, following the High Court judgment in R (on the application of Zhang) v Secretary of State for the Home Department. The changes will allow dependants to apply to switch into dependant status from within the UK, providing they are not here illegally, as visitors, or on temporary admission or temporary release. Previously if an applicant wanted to apply as Points Based System dependant they had to apply from outside the UK. Unfortunately, the present restrictions on switching the other way around, from dependant to being a main applicant in a person”s own right, will remain.
The changes will also introduce checks to ensure applicants under certain work categories and students looking to extend their visas in the UK are genuine. The Home Office will expand the use of ‘genuineness’ tests in Tiers 1 General (as mentioned above) and also Tier 5 of the Points-Based System, as well as for the Minister of Religion category in Tier 2, to better protect these routes against abuse.
This will allow Home Office caseworkers to check that Tier 1 and Tier 5 workers are, and intend to actually work, and are able maintain themselves.
The genuineness test will also be extended to Tier 4 students applying for further leave to remain. At the moment when applying to enter the country, Tier 4 students can be refused if they cannot show that they speak English to the required standard. This will now be applied to extension applications for Tier 4 Students.
If you have any questions or queries about the changes to UK immigration rules please contact us or call 0207 0012121.