Further tightening of the UK’s Immigration Rules
7th November, 2016
The Home Office has altered the Immigration Rules which govern the immigration routes for workers, students, visitors and family members into the UK.
We have set out a summary of the key changes below.
Tier 2 visas
In January this year the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its recommendations for changes to the Tier 2 visa category (please click here for our newsflash on this on 22 January 16) and a number of these recommendations have been implemented:
- The salary threshold for new entrants under Tier 2 (General) has, for the time being, been maintained at £20,800;
- The salary threshold for experienced workers under Tier 2 (General) is to be increased to £25,000 for new applicants (with some limited exemptions in the health and education sectors). The new £25,000 threshold will not apply to extension applications made in this category before 24 November 2016;
- In April 2017, the Government intends to increase the salary threshold in the Tier 2 (General) category further to £30,000;
- The Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short-term staff is to be increased to £30,000;
- The Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for graduate trainees is to be reduced by £1,800 to £23,000 and the number of places per company per year will be increased from 5 to 20; and
- The Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category will be closed to new applicants.
These changes will take effect for all Certificates of Sponsorship assigned by Tier 2 sponsors on or after 24 November 2016.
Applicants under the Intra-Company Transfer route will also be required to pay the immigration health surcharge but no announcement has been made as to when this requirement will take effect.
It has specifically been confirmed that nurses will be retained on the Shortage Occupation List but crucially, before a Certificate of Sponsorship can be assigned to a nurse, the Tier 2 sponsor will need to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test which was previously not required. This will add another layer of complexity to the process and delay.
A new English language requirement for non-European Economic Area national partners and parents is to be introduced when applying to extend their stay in the UK.
The change affects those applying on a five-year route to settlement who are seeking to extend their stay in the UK after two and a half years. It will apply to partners and parents whose current leave on a five-year route to settlement under the family rules is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017.
The new requirement can be met by passing, as a minimum, an A2 level common European framework of reference for languages speaking and listening test.
Those who are a national of a majority English-speaking country or who hold a degree taught or researched in English will automatically meet the A2 level requirement.
This new requirement is designed to deliver on the Government’s manifesto commitment to ensure that those coming to the UK on a family visa with only basic English become more fluent over time.
The ’28 day grace period’ is being abolished to encourage greater compliance with the Immigration Rules. Applications submitted from within the UK should be done so before the applicant’s current visa expires.
For a number of years, if the visa holder stayed in the UK after their visa expired for 28 days or less, this period of overstaying would not automatically lead to a subsequent visa application being refused.
The 28 day rule is now going to be abolished. However, a visa application will not be refused if the application is made within 14 days of the applicant’s current visa expiring and they explain in the application and the Secretary of State considers that there is a good reason beyond the applicant’s control why they could not make the application before their visa expired.
One of the worst things an applicant can do is become an over-stayer and what little flexibility there was is being severely restricted.
Minor changes have also been made to the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa.
Anxiety about the UK’s visa system is widespread. India’s Prime Minister has expressed concern that the mobility of India’s students and business people is being restricted and called for improvements to be made to the UK’s visa scheme for Indian Nationals.
Whilst in Delhi this week, Prime Minister Theresa May rejected this proposal saying that the UK is already able to attract “the brightest and the best” talent from outside the EU.
How can Ward Hadaway help?
Whether you are a sponsor or a visa holder yourself, our immigration team can help you avoid the potential pitfalls introduced by these changes.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need further assistance with any current or future visa applications or sponsorship applications.
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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