Another Immigration Law Update…
18th December, 2023
The festive season is proving to be a busy period for immigration lawyers, with a new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules being published by the Home Office on 7 December 2023.
Changes to the Visitor Rules
The most significant changes for organisations are in relation to the business visitor rules. The Visitor Rules will be changed with effect from 31 January 2024 to:
- Specifically allow business visitors to work remotely while in the UK, provided this is not the primary purpose of their visit. This change reflects the growing trend of flexible and remote working arrangements in the modern workforce. It will come as welcome clarification for business travellers and serves to bring the UK up to date with many other jurisdictions which expressly allow their “visitors” to undertake remote work in this way.
- The permitted intra-corporate activities will be expanded to remove the current prohibition on visitors working directly with clients. This will now be permitted so long as the client-facing activity is incidental to their employment abroad, and does not amount to the offshoring of a project or service to their overseas employer. Again, this will be a welcome relaxation of the requirements imposed on international business travellers entering the UK.
- The scope of permitted activities is being expanded for various professions during their visits to the UK. Legal professionals will be granted greater flexibility and scientists, researchers, and academics will have expanded opportunities to conduct research in the UK during their visit.
- The provisions of the Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor route are being merged into the Standard Visitor route. This consolidation will mean that all visitors will be able to undertake Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) without securing a special visa. However, it is important to note that individuals intending to participate in a PPE must have arranged their activities before travelling to the UK and are required to complete them within 30 days of arrival.
Businesses are likely to be frustrated, however, that the current amendments do not go further. In particular, there have been calls from many different sectors and organisations for a review and simplification of the permitted business activities more generally. It was hoped that amendments in this area would be introduced in Autumn 2023 with a view to addressing some of the challenges faced by organisations, particularly in relation to short term work assignments in the UK.
We understand that a further, and more extensive, review of the visitor rules is now timetabled for 2024. Businesses will need to wait and see what further clarity, if any, this brings. Although visitors are not included in the net migration figures, in the context of the current political agenda it will be interesting to see how this review progresses.
Changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)
The Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) is a visa scheme that allows individuals holding certain nationalities to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. Typically, individuals aged between 18 and 30 are eligible to apply (although in some cases this extends up to the age of 35). It used to be known as the “working holiday maker scheme”.
Changes to the YMS effective from 31 January 2024 include:
- Adding Uruguay to the participating countries in the YMS. This means that up to 500 Uruguayan citizens will now have the chance to enter the UK using this route per year.
- The total number of allocated places for Japan and the Republic of Korea nationals will increase to 6,000 and 5,000 respectively. For nationals of the Republic of Korea, the eligible age range for applicants is being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35.
- The requirement to obtain an invitation to apply for Japanese and South Korean citizens is being removed. This should hopefully go some way to streamlining the process for these applicants.
Although fairly niche in applicability, it is worth employers having an awareness of the expansion of this route. Successful YMS applicants have the option to take employment in most jobs without, for example, requiring sponsorship from their employer.
The statement also includes changes to several other areas of immigration law. This includes changes to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and some minor changes to some of the Temporary Work Routes. It also introduces several new appendices relating to statelessness, domestic abuse and bereaved partners. These changes will come into effect on various dates ranging from 7 December 2023 to 31 January 2024.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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