Changes to the Immigration Rules

Last week, the UK Border Agency published the following summary of forthcoming changes to the Immigration Rules.  A written ministerial statement was laid before Parliament on the 15th March 2012 outlining a number of these changes.

Most of the changes will come into effect on 6 April 2012.  Some of the changes to Tier 2 will affect those who were granted leave after 6 April 2011.

The changes include:

Migrants under the Points-Based System

Tier 1 – high-value migrants

  • Closing the Tier 1 (Post-study work) route.
  • Introducing the new Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) route.
  • Introducing new provisions for switching from Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Post-study work) into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).
  • Renewing the 1000 place limit for Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) for each of the next 2 years.

Tier 2 – skilled workers

  • Limiting the total amount of temporary leave that may be granted to a Tier 2 migrant to 6 years (which applies to those who entered the UK after 6 April 2011).
  • Introducing a new minimum pay requirement of £35,000 or the appropriate Government rate for the job, for Tier 2 general and sportsperson migrants who wish to settle here from April 2016 (with exemptions for those in PhD level and shortage occupation categories).
  • Introducing a ‘cooling-off period’ across all the Tier 2 routes. Tier 2 migrants will need to wait for 12 months from the expiry of their previous visa before they may apply for a further Tier 2 visa.
  • Introducing new post-study arrangements for graduates switching into Tier 2.

Tier 4 – students

Implementing the final set of changes to the student visa system that were announced in March 2011, including:

  • Extending the interim limit for sponsors that have applied for educational oversight and Highly Trusted Sponsor status and have not yet been assessed.
  • Introducing limits on the time that can be spent studying at degree level.
  • Tightening work placement restrictions.

Tier 5 – temporary workers

  • Limiting the length of time temporary workers can stay in the UK, under certain Government Authorised Exchange schemes, to a maximum of 12 months. The schemes affected are intern, work experience and youth exchange type programmes.
  • Allowing sportspersons who enter under the Tier 5 creative and sporting sub-category to undertake some guest sports broadcasting work where they are not filling a permanent position.

Changes in all tiers of the points-based system

  • Making curtailment mandatory where a migrant under Tiers 2, 4, or 5 of the points-based system has failed to start, or has ceased, their work or study with their sponsor. This includes cases where a sponsor notifies the UKBA, via the sponsor management system (SMS), that a migrant is no longer pursuing the purpose of their visa. The Rules will also set out the limited exceptions to mandatory curtailment.
  • Reducing the curtailment threshold (the level of leave you have left which means that the UKBA will not normally pursue curtailment) from 6 months to 60 days.
  • Increasing the funds applicants will need to provide evidence of, in order to meet the maintenance requirements for all routes in the points-based system. For Tier 4 and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme the changes will come into effect on 6 April 2012. For Tier 1, Tier 2 and temporary workers under Tier 5 the changes will come into effect on 14 June 2012.

Visitors

  • The new visitor route will allow a small group of professionals, artists, entertainers and sportspersons who are invited to come to the UK to undertake short-term permitted fee paid engagements for up to 1 month.

Overseas domestic workers

  • Restricting all overseas domestic workers (ODW) to only work for the employer with whom they entered the UK, or whom they came to join.
  • Removing the right for all migrants under the ODW category to apply for settlement.
  • Strengthening the requirement for the employer of an ODW to provide evidence of an existing employer relationship, and introducing a requirement for agreed, written terms and conditions of employment to be produced, as part of the application for entry clearance.
  • Permitting all ODWs who have applied for leave to enter or remain on or before 5 April 2012, to continue to be treated under Immigration Rules in place on that date.
  • Restricting ODWs in private households to work for an employer who is a visitor to the UK. Permission to stay in the UK will be limited to a maximum of 6 months or the period of the employer’s stay whichever is shorter. Removing the current provision for ODWs to be accompanied by dependants.
  • Permitting ODWs in diplomatic households to apply to extend their stay for 12 months at a time up to a maximum of 5 years, or the length of the diplomat’s posting, whichever is shorter.

Sponsors

  • Introducing a Premium Customer Service for those A-rated sponsors in Tiers 2 and 5 who wish to apply and pay for a range of benefits. The service will launch in the 2012-13 financial year.

In addition to these changes, the Government is also making amendments to the extension of leave to remain.The Home Office has today published 2 financial impact assessments: one on settlement and another on Tier 5 and overseas domestic workers, as well as a policy equality statement.

For full details of the changes please visit the UK Border Agency’s website.

If you have any questions or concerns about how these changes may affect you, please write to us or give us a call on +44 (0)207 001 2121.

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