On 4 March 2021 the Government released a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules. The most important development is the introduction of the Graduate Immigration Route, but there are also a number of other key changes. We explore these latest developments.
The Graduate route
The Government has finally announced details of the Graduate route, a long-awaited positive change for international students wishing to stay in the UK once they have successfully completed their studies. Given the loss of access to the EU labour market and the fact that the Skilled Worker route does not apply to lower paid jobs, UK businesses will also benefit from this development. The new route will go live on 1 July 2021.
Key points to note:
- Successful applicants will be granted two years permission to stay under the route, unless they have graduated with a PhD or other doctoral qualification in which case this increases to three years.
- Students must be living in the UK with a current student visa. If the course duration is less than 12 months, all of their time must have been spent in the UK. Students studying a course of more than 12 months duration must have been granted permission to stay for at least 12 months on the Student/Tier 4 route and must have spent that time studying in the UK. There is a limited exception for absences due to Covid-19.
- Apart from the usual restrictions on working as a doctor, dentist and sportsperson, successful applicants will be able to work in any profession at any level without the need for sponsorship. They can also be self-employed which will promote new graduate business ventures, paving the way for them to switch to other immigration routes down the road.
- Only dependents who are already in the UK as dependents under the Student/Tier 4 route can apply for leave as dependents on the Graduate route.
- Students must be graduating from a Higher Education provider with a track record of compliance.
Skilled Worker route
The Home Office is expanding the Shortage Occupation List, recognising the UK’s need for health and social care workers. From 6 April 2021, the list will include:
- residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors;
- nursing auxiliaries and assistants;
- senior care workers and health professionals not elsewhere classified.
The inclusion of these roles is welcome and should help to alleviate some of the pressures the health and social care sector is experiencing, whilst opening new routes to many more migrants who wish to work in the UK.
From 6 April 2021, in addition to meeting the general minimum salary requirement, sponsors will also need to ensure that the hourly rate paid to Skilled Workers is at least £10.10. This is to help safeguard workers from being exploited and reduce abuse of the sponsorship system.
In a further positive development for international students and businesses, those who have completed two years on the Graduate route will be treated as ‘New Entrants’ under the Skilled Worker route.
EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
The Immigration Rules regarding the EU Settlement Scheme are already far too complex and more changes have been announced, many of which will take effect from 6 April 2021.
Applicants will be able to use other forms of ID in cases where the required identity documents are unavailable due to reasons beyond the applicant’s control. This is a welcome development, acknowledging the vulnerability of some applicants and ensuring that the scheme is accessible to all eligible applicants.
A further amendment means that applicants applying under this route can now be refused on grounds of suitability for crimes and behaviour which have taken place from 1 January 2021, after the transition period ended.
Whilst on the topic of EUSS, we would remind potential applicants that, as previously announced by the Home Office, changes are due to take place in relation to dependant parents of EU or Swiss citizens (or their spouse/civil partner). They can currently apply under the EUSS on the basis that dependency has been assumed, meaning that no evidence of actual dependency needs to be submitted. However, from 30 June 2021 such applicants will have to show financial dependency and this may mean that many parents are unable to benefit from the scheme.
From 5 May 2021, migrants wishing to apply under the Global Talent route will no longer have to be endorsed if they have ‘reached the pinnacle of their careers’ and been recognised for a prestigious prize. Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes will contain the list of prizes (currently found from page 62 of the Statement).
From 6 April 2021, applicants applying for an Innovator visa must be the ‘sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team of the business’ for which they have been endorsed by an endorsing body.
The list includes BAFTAS, the Nobel Prize, the Oscars and Golden Globes.
Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5)
The requirement for a CoS for Youth Mobility Scheme applicants is being replaced by a requirement for those applying from countries or territories without Deemed Sponsorship Status to produce evidence of sponsorship within 6 months of being in the UK.
The country allocations under this route have been decided and are as follows:
- Australia – 30,000 places
- New Zealand – 13,000 places
- Canada – 6,000 places (was 5,000)
- Japan – 1,500 places (was 1,000)
- Monaco – 1,000 places
- Taiwan – 1,000 places
- Hong Kong – 1,000 places
- Republic of Korea – 1,000 places
Family visas – Appendix FM
A common-sense approach sees applicants for spouse visas, along with those in the other family routes, being able to rely on having proved their English language ability to the required level in a previously successful application for entry clearance or further leave applications.
Hong Kong (BNO)
From 6 April 2021, migrants under the BN(O) route will be able to apply for a change of conditions in order to be able to access public funds. They will have to demonstrate that they have become destitute or are at ‘imminent risk’ of destitution.
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