On 3 November 2016 the Home Office laid before Parliament its latest proposed “Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules”, by which it introduces changes to the domestic law in respect of entry into and residency, working and settlement in the UK.
Whilst covering a wide range of visas and tiers under the UK points based system the main changes in this latest Statement are in relation to business focused visas, and also in respect of those seeking settlement after five years under the family member route.
Minor revision has been made to the Entrepreneur visa process in respect of various evidential provision, and also to the Exceptional Talent route whereby the Isle of Man is now to be included in the available quotas.
Somewhat more interestingly, the government is to introduce amendments to this route for skilled workers, following its consideration of those recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee’s review in March of this year.
The headline points are that for workers sponsored on or after 24 November 2016:
Tier 2 – General
• Subject to one or two specific exceptions, the minimum salary for experienced workers under the general visa is to increase to £25,000. This is then set to increase to £30,000 in April of 2017. The entry rate will remain at a minimum of £28,000.
• Further transitional steps have been included to provide that those workers who renew existing general visas (issued before 24 November 2016) will not need to be paid this new minimum sum.
• On a more positive note, provision is to be made for those being sponsored under graduate training programmes to change occupation at the end on the scheme without having to make a new visa application and without the existing sponsor having to carry out a resident labour market test.
Tier 2 – Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)
• The minimum salary for short term ICT visas will also be increased to £30,000, whilst the salary threshold for graduate trainees is to be reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 with the possible allocation rising from 5 to 20 migrants per company per year.
• The existing skills transfer sub category for ICT’s will also be closed for new entrants.
• For now the application of the Immigration Health Surcharge has not been introduced for the ICT route (£200 per year for the migrant and a further £200 per year for any and each dependant), but this is still proposed to be implemented in due course.
The above changes to the general and ICT visas will result in increased costs and difficulties for international companies wishing to transfer talented but junior / non graduate program staff, and similar costs and difficulties for employers wishing to recruit talented “experienced” workers, albeit that a resident candidate cannot be identified.
This financial burden is set to rise further with the proposed introduction next April of an Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per year per sponsored migrant. The intention of which is to make domestic hires even more attractive, and where required skills are not available to provide a fund from which they can then be “home grown”.
English language requirement in respect of Family and private
Non-European Economic Area partners and parents of settled workers wishing to come and live with them in the UK presently have to satisfy an English language requirement at the “A1” level, being the demonstration of basic speaking and listening skills.
From 1 May 2016, subject again to a few exemptions, partners and parents who are taking the five year route to settlement will, on renewing their visas, now need to pass a higher level English language examination of “A2”, requiring a higher competency in their listening and speaking skills – unless they have been taught at degree level in English and can satisfy the Home Office’s requirements in that regard.
The government’s stated intention for this change being to better facilitate migrant integration into the UK’s society and to further act as a “stepping stone” towards the subsequent “B1” level that is, presently, required for any settlement application.
The Immigration Rules, like the Home Office’s various published guidance, are constantly being amended and modified and it can often be difficult to navigate through the bureaucratic landscape in order to secure new or extension visas. Should you therefore need any guidance through such terrain then please do not hesitate to contact our dedicated immigration team