UNITED KINGDOM – Government Publishes Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules
On 3 November 2016 the UK Home Office published the latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, which are due to take effect from 24 November 2016. The changes are largely the same as were announced earlier this year.
What are the Main Changes?
The statement is a comprehensive outline of detailed, technical changes to specific areas of immigration policy. However, the main amendments are as follows:
Tier 2 General
The following changes are being made following the review of Tier 2 by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC):
- The salary threshold for experienced workers has been increased to £25,000 for the majority of new applicants (the salary threshold for new entrants has been held at £20,800). An exemption from this increase will apply for nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin. The exemption will end in July 2019.
- As a transitional arrangement, the £25,000 threshold will not apply to workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) before 24 November 2016, if they apply to extend their stay in the category. The Government intends to increase the threshold to £30,000 in April 2017; there will be no such transitional arrangement for workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) between 24 November 2016 and April 2017 – they will need to satisfy the £30,000 threshold in any future application.
- UK graduates who have returned overseas have been weighted more heavily in the monthly allocation rounds under the Tier 2 limit. Graduates who apply in the UK continue to be exempt from the limit.
- A change is being made to facilitate changes of occupation for applicants sponsored in graduate training programmes. This enables them to change occupation within the programme or at the end of the programme, without their sponsor needing to carry out a further Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) or for them to make a new application.
- Following a separate review by the MAC on nursing shortages, nurses are being retained on the Shortage Occupation List, but a change is being made to require a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to have been carried out before a nurse is assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer
A number of changes are also being made in response to the review of Tier 2 by the MAC, and have been previously announced. The changes include:
- The salary for short term ICT applicants has been increased to £30,000 for new applicants. A transitional arrangement applies for those already in the UK under the short term route.
- The closure of the Skills Transfer sub-category to new applicants.
- Changes to the Graduate Trainee sub-category. The salary threshold has been reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 and the number of places a sponsor can use has been increased from 5 to 20 per year. As with Tier 2 (General), the salary thresholds are being set out in a new table for clarity.
- The government has yet to announce when those applying under the Tier 2 (ICT) route will be liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
Overstay Grace Period Abolished
While applications for further leave to remain for many rules-based applications are expected to be made before any existing leave expires, any period of overstaying for 28 days or less had previously not been a ground for refusal as far as those applications are concerned. This 28-day period was originally brought in so that people who had made an innocent mistake were not penalised but retaining it sends a message which is inconsistent with the need to ensure compliance with the United Kingdom’s immigration laws.
The 28-day period is, therefore, to be abolished. However, an out of time application will not be refused on the basis that the applicant has overstayed where the Secretary of State considers that there is a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative, provided the application is made within 14 days of the expiry of leave.
English Language Requirement
A new English language requirement at level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is being introduced for non-EEA partners and parents. This affects those applying to extend their stay after two and a half years in the UK on a five-year route to settlement under Appendix FM (Family Members) of the Immigration Rules. The new requirement will apply to partners and parents whose current leave under the family Immigration Rules is due to expire on or after 1st May 2017.
The Statement of Intent on the English language requirement for the family route can be found here.
The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules can be found here.