The Statement of Changes, due to come into effect in April 2015, has amended the rules relating to Visitors to the UK. Essentially the number of visitor categories will be cut from the current 15 to 4.
The purpose of these changes, according to the Home Office, is that they will simplify the system and make it easier to understand. There are currently 15 different Visitor routes set out in the Immigration Rules which, to some degree, limit the individual to a single purpose during their visit. For example, business visitors must enter only for business activities; general visitors for tourism; private medical treatment visitors to receive treatment. As a result, there is very little flexibility for those who regularly travel to the UK to carry out different activities in one trip. Strictly speaking, in many situations, the traveller would have to apply for separate Visit Visas for separate trips to the UK. Therefore the changes seek to clarify policy regarding Visitors and eliminate much of the need to apply for multiple visas. For example, Business travellers will now formally be able to take a holiday in the UK alongside meetings.
Redesigning the Visitor routes
The four new visa routes will be: Visitor (standard); Visitor (to hold marriage or civil partnership); Visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements; and Visitors transiting the UK.
The Visitor (Standard) route consolidates the following existing routes:
General, Business, Child, Sport, Entertainer, Visitors for Private Medical Treatment, Visitors under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) Agreement with China, Prospective Entrepreneur, and Visitors Undertaking Clinical Attachments; the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
In practice, this means that individuals will be able to undertake a range of activities if entering under the Visitor (Standard) route. Within the Visitor (Standard) route, the Home Office are also retaining specific visit visa categories for those entering to carry out research as an academic; those receiving private medical treatment and for children. Note of course, that it will still be necessary for the visa applicant to set out in their application, the activities that they are coming to the UK to undertake.
Removing previous Visitors categories
There will no longer be a Student Visitor route within the Visitor categories. The Student Visitor and extended Student Visitor routes will now sit in Part 3 (Students) of the Immigration Rules alongside other study provisions, as a Short Term Study routes. The system will then be clearer for those whose main purpose for coming to the UK is to study a short course up to six months (11 months in the case of adults studying longer English language courses.)
The “Parent of a child at school” route is being rebranded as “Parent of a Tier 4 (child) student” to clarify the purpose of the route, and will sit in Part 7 (Other categories) of the Immigration Rules, as these individuals are not visitors.
Expanding the permitted activities that can be undertaken by Visitors
The permitted activities for each of the four visitor routes will be set out in Appendices to the new Visitor Rules.
For example, those entering under the Visitor (Standard) route will be permitted to carry out activities set out in Appendix 3 of the new Visit Rules. There will be new permitted activities added to Appendix 3which include –
1. Allowing visitors to carry out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days at a UK registered charity;
2. Allowing overseas trainers to deliver training to UK based employees of a multinational company, where the training is part of a contract to deliver global training to the international corporate group;
3. Allowing UK based organisations, who are not corporate entities, to provide training to overseas visitors on work practices and techniques that are needed for their employment overseas, where this is not readily available in their home country;
4. Expanding the existing provision to allow overseas lawyers to advise a UK client on international transactions and litigation, provided they remain paid and employed overseas.
The other general criteria relating to visitors will of course still apply, in terms of their intention to leave the UK at the end of their trip, to be able to maintain and accommodate themselves whilst in the UK and to not be paid or employed by a UK entity.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the changes, please contact us.