Changes to business immigration rules announced
On 26th February 2015, the Home Office released a substantial new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules.
On 26 February 2015, the Home Office released a substantial new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. The most important changes are outlined briefly below.
Changes to Tier 1 of the Points Based System
Several changes to Tier 1 have been introduced including:
- Requiring prospective Tier 1 (Investor) Migrants to open a UK-regulated investment account before making an initial application;
- Allowing Tier 1 (Investors) to maintain their investment by reinvesting the gross proceeds from the sales of any part of their investment portfolio, rather than having to reinvest the original purchase price of that investment. This reinvestment must be made before the end of the next reporting period or within six months of the sale (whichever is sooner);
- Applying a “genuine entrepreneur” test to Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) extension and indefinite leave to remain applications; and
- Closing the Tier 1 (General) category for extension applications, and restricting the ability of Tier 1 (General) applicants to switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category.
Changes to Tier 2 of the Points Based System
Important changes to Tier 2 include:
- Updating the minimum salary thresholds for all Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned on or after 6 April 2015. Tier 2 (General) employees will be subject to the following salary changes:
- Minimum annual salary updated from £20,500 to £20,800;
- For those whose jobs are exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus, the current minimum salary threshold of £71,600 will be updated to £72,500; and
- For high earners, the minimum salary threshold of £153,500 is being updated to £155,300.
- Subjecting Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) employees to the following minimum salary threshold changes:
- Short Term Staff, Skills Transfer, or Graduate Trainee categories, the minimum salary threshold of £24,500 will be updated to £24,800; and
- For Long Term Staff, the minimum salary threshold of £41,000 is increasing to £41,500
These changes will be applied to all applicants on or after 6 April 2015 and will not be applied retrospectively:
- Altering the 12 month “cooling-off” period (which prevents applications being granted for a Tier 2 (General) visa if the migrant has already been in the UK under a Tier 2 (ICT) visa within the previous 12 months).
With a view to promoting more flexible business, the cooling-off period will no longer apply to Tier 2 (ICT) leave for periods of three months or shorter – which means that businesses with an immediate need to bring a foreign employee into the UK should be able to do so. For example, as long as that worker comes from the same business, they can be brought to the UK under a valid intra-company transfer visa for a maximum of three months, during which time, the Tier 2 (General) application process can commence.
- Amendments to the Shortage Occupation List in Tier 2 of the Points-Based System, following a partial review of the Migration Advisory Committee (read the review - the recommended list appears at pages 149-156). A number of positions are to be added to the digital technology sector including: Product Manager; Data Scientist; Senior Developer; and Cyber Security Analyst. Paramedics are also thought likely to be added to the list for the first time since its inception. However, neonatal and paediatric specialist nursing job-titles are to be removed as are some other specialist medical roles.
The following changes are also important:
- Tougher penalties for undisclosed criminal records: applications for entry may be refused if a person fails to provide an overseas criminal record certificate when requested;
- Increased powers of immigration caseworkers: caseworkers may now require anyone in the UK with limited leave to provide evidence and/or attend interview in order to demonstrate that they continue to meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules;
- Tighter regulation of the English Language test: the list of approved English language tests in Appendix O is to be updated following the awards of new concessions to test providers. The English language tests taken for immigration purposes are now to only be taken at specifically approved test centres. A full list is available here.
- Enhanced protection for Overseas Domestic Workers: overseas Domestic Workers must now have contracts that meet the standard UK legal requirements and must be paid in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Regulations.
- Updates to the “Visitor” Category: the 15 existing visitor routes are now streamlined to four:
- Visitor (standard)
- Visitor for marriage or civil partnership;
- Visitor for permitted paid engagements; and
- Transit Visitor.
In addition, there will now be one single set of rules for visitors covering all requirements for entry and stay in the UK including grounds for refusal and permitted activities for visitors.
- Updates to the Appeals system: from 6 April 2015, a new process of administrative review will be implemented with the aim of correcting simple casework errors within 28 days.