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Round up of recent immigration changes

September and October have been busy months in terms of immigration news and changes. In this update we summarise the key pointers that businesses and individual migrants should be aware of.

Key changes to the immigration rules

October sees several important changes being made to the Immigration Rules. A summary of the key changes are below:

Tier 1: Exceptional Talent

  • Migrants seeking to be endorsed for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa by Tech Nation will now have to provide three letters of recommendation demonstrating their exceptionality in the digital technology sector. Prior to 1 October 2019, applicants only had to provide two letters.

Tier 2: Expansion of the shortage occupation list

  • The Government has added a number of new professions to the list such as architects, psychologists, veterinarians, biological scientists and biochemists. The main benefit of the occupation you wish to sponsor being on the list is that an employer does not have to conduct the Resident Labour Market Test when seeking to employ a migrant in a role on the list.
  • Previously, companies offering digital technology jobs on the shortage occupation list had to meet strict company qualifying criteria, this criteria has now been removed making it easier to employ migrants into these roles.
  • In addition, the Government has opened up some categories. For example, under the previous rules, “IT business analysts, architects and systems designers” and “programmers and software development professionals” either had to work in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors or had five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team for their role to be on the shortage occupation list. Now all roles in these categories are included.
  • However, sponsors should be aware that some roles have been removed from the list such as IT product managers, engineering technicians and directors in mining and energy.
  • These changes came into effect on 6 October 2019.

Removal of PHD level occupations

  • The Government imposes an annual cap on visas granted under Tier 2 (General) which currently stands at 20,700 a year.  From 6 October 2019, PhD level occupations will be exempt from the Tier 2 (General) annual cap.  In recent years the number of applications has often exceeded the cap. Therefore the removal of these roles will make it easier for employers to hire migrants in these highly skilled jobs.
  • Further, when it comes to applications to settle indefinitely, PhD level workers will not be penalised for taking absences from the UK where the reason for their absence was to conduct research directly related to their employment.

New Graduate Route announced

  • The Government has recently announced its proposal to introduce a new two year post-study work visa for graduates. This would allow students who had successfully completed a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above to work or look for work in any career of their choice, for two years after the completion of their studies.
  • At present, university students on a Tier 4 visa are only granted four months to stay in the UK after their studies, which often did not allow them to find employment.
  • The new Graduate Route will be launched for the 2020/21 intake of students and will therefore not be applicable to current students.

No-deal Brexit: changes to policy for EU nationals

  • The Government has now confirmed that free movement will continue even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019. This is despite a previous announcement stating free movement would end immediately in a no-deal situation.
  • The revised policy states that EU migrants and their close family members,  who enter the UK after a no-deal Brexit, will be able to access a temporary immigration status, known as “European Temporary Leave to Remain” until the new skills-based immigration system is implemented (the Government has stated this will be early 2021).
  • The Government has confirmed that the Scheme will be voluntary, free and will entitle successful applicants to a 36 month temporary immigration status (which will extend beyond the launch of the new-skills based system).
  • Before this temporary status expires, an EU migrant will need to obtain a further visa under the new skills-based system if they wish to remain in the UK.
  • EU migrants who are already in the UK before 31 October 2019 can apply under the EU settlement scheme to secure their leave to remain and have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply.

Finally, the Government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to review how an Australian style Points Based System could work in Britain. Therefore we can hope to hear more about the new skills-based system that the Government hopes to introduce by 2021 after this report is published.

For further information, please get in touch with Natalie Payne or a member of the immigration team.

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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