On Thursday 13 March 2014, a written ministerial statement was laid before Parliament outlining a number of changes to the Immigration Rules and other adjustments to the operation of the immigration system.
According to the Home Office, many of the changes are designed to introduce greater flexibility for businesses and support growth. Whilst that may indeed be so, we believe that many of the other changes will make it harder for genuine sponsors and migrants to satisfy the requirements. We are especially concerned by the introduction of yet more subjective decision-making powers.
We’ve summarised the key changes below which are due to come in to force on 6 April 2014 unless otherwise stated:
The good changes….
- Expanding the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category to include leading individuals endorsed by Tech City UK.
- Making it easier for applicants in the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category to apply from overseas and enabling them to count time spent in other immigration categories towards qualifying for settlement.
- Removing the ring-fenced places for MBA graduates and the current restrictions on participants’ graduation dates under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category.
- Creating a new category for overseas government sponsored language teachers under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange route. This is designed to enable them to come to the UK to share knowledge, language and cultures and will commence with a Mandarin teaching scheme.
- Granting leave under Tier 2 for up to five years at a time rather than the current three year maximum.
- Adding Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates to the list of low risk countries for Tier 4 applicants.
The not so good changes….
- Removing the exemption from credibility interviews under the Genuine Student Rule (Tier 4) for nationals of low risk countries.
- Introducing a visa regime for all visitors from Venezuela to be implemented from the 5th May 2014.
- Increasing the threshold for maintenance funds for student, worker and family migrants, in line with the costs of living in the UK. These changes will affect all applications made from 1st July 2014. Because applicants will need to have held the funds for 28 or 90 days (depending on the type of application and if it is being filed from inside or outside the UK), anyone planning to apply from July should take note of these changes now and ensure that appropriate funds are in place.
- Enabling leave to be curtailed where a sponsor notifies the Home Office that a migrant’s period of study or work is due to end earlier than had been originally planned when leave was granted.
- Enabling the sponsor licence team to refuse applications for Tier 2 sponsor licences if they believe that the prospective sponsor is unable to offer genuine employment which meets the Tier 2 (General) requirements.
Full details of these changes can be found in the Statement of Changes to the Immigration rules (HC1138) and the Explanatory Memorandum.