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UNITED KINGDOM: Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules

On 22 October 2020, the UK government published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, introducing the expected “Points-Based” Immigration System.

Among the changes, most of which take effect on 1 December 2020, are the following:

English Language

  • Applicants only need to prove the required level of English language to the Home Office once.
  • Malta is included in the majority English-speaking country list (so Maltese nationality is proof of English language ability).
  • Applicants can rely on a degree from Ireland as proof of English language ability.
  • Applicants who have gained GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK can rely on this as proof of their English language ability (initially, only for entry clearance and permission to stay for Student, Skilled Worker, Start-up and Innovator).

Financial Requirements

  • Students, Skilled Workers, Intra-Company Workers, Tier 2 Minister of Religion, Tier 2 Sportspersons, Tier 5 (Temporary Workers), Start-up and Innovator applicants no longer need to meet the maintenance requirement if they have been supporting themselves in the UK for more than 12 months.
  • Applicants are required to show they have held funds for 28 days (initially, only for Student, Skilled Worker, Start-up and Innovator routes)
  • Applicants can rely on electronic bank statements without requiring that they be certified by the bank on every page.
  • Applicants can rely on a wider range of accounts, not just cash or cash savings, as long as the funds can be accessed immediately.
  • Applicants must submit evidence of funds within 31 days of the date of application.
  • The maintenance requirement for Parents of a Child Student is set at £1560/month up to a maximum of 9 months; and an additional £625/month for any child other than the Child Student who will be under their care in the UK.
  • The maintenance requirement for Skilled Workers, Intra-Company Workers, Tier 2 Minister of Religion and Sportspersons, Innovators and Start-Ups, Tier 5 (Temporary Workers), including Seasonal Workers, Religious Workers, Charity Workers, Creative and Sporting workers, International Agreement Workers and Government Authorised Exchange Workers will be increased from £945/month to £1270/month and applicants are now required to show they have held the funds for 28 days.
  • For most dependants, the maintenance requirement is reduced from £630/month to £285/month for a dependant partner, £315/month for thefirst child applying and £200/month for each subsequent child.
  • The maintenance requirement for Youth Mobility Applicants will be increased from £1890/month to £2530/month and applicants are now required to show they have held the funds for 28 days.
  • The maintenance requirement for Students will be £1334 /month in London and £1023/month outside London.

Visitors

  • Visitors are permitted to study for up to six months, rather than 30 days as currently. This does not apply to recreational leisure courses. A new short-term study route allows study for 6-11 months.
  • Volunteering no longer needs to be incidental to the main reason for the visit.
  • Drivers on international routes can collect as well as deliver goods and passengers in and out of the UK.

Students

  • Students and their dependents who are allowed to work are permitted to work as postgraduate doctors or dentists in training to enable them to work in the NHS.

Skilled Workers

As previously announced:

  • The minimum skill level is reduced from RQF level 6 (university degree) to level 3 (A-level or equivalent).
  • The Tier 2 cap is suspended.
  • The Resident Labour Market Test is removed.
  • Sponsored workers continue to require a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points), for a job at an appropriate skill level (20 points) and English language skills at B1 (intermediate) level (10 points).
  • The standard minimum salary requirement is reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 and the going rate for the occupation (20 points), but with some flexibility:
    • £23,430 and 90% of the going rate for the occupation for those who have a relevant PhD.
    • £20,480 and 80% of the going rate for the occupation for those working in jobs on the Shortage Occupation List or in a listed health or education occupation, or who have relevant PhDs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
    • £20,480 and 70% of the going rate for the occupation for new entrants to the labour market.
  • New entrants will also include those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions and those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status. The criteria for new entrants switching from the Student route are being widened to include those were in the route at any time in the two years before they apply.
  • The 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route are being removed. The Skilled Worker route will not restrict when applications can be made or restrict length of stay.
  • The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications is being removed. Instead, sponsors must be paying their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 per year and the going rate for the occupation (or £20,480 and the going rate for the occupation for shortage occupations or listed health or education occupations).
  • The Tier 2 (General) route will be closed to new applications from 1 December 2020. A person who has entry clearance or permission to stay on the Tier 2 (General) route and wants to extend their stay in the UK can apply for further leave, or settlement, under the Skilled Worker rules if they meet the requirements.
  • All Skilled Worker applications, including Dependant partner and child applications, which are made on or after 1 December will be decided in accordance with the new Skilled Worker rules, even where they are accompanied by a Certificate of Sponsorship which was issued under the Tier 2 (General) rules and policy in place before 1 December. Sponsors will need to provide additional information via a “sponsor note” to allow Certificates of Sponsorship issued before 1 December 2020 to be used for a Skilled Worker application.

Intra-Company Transfer

  • This route will require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF6, and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main Skilled Worker route. It will not be subject to English language requirements but will be subject to a requirement that the worker has been employed by the sending business for a minimum period prior to the transfer (12 months in the case of intra-company transfers or three months in the case of intra-company graduate trainees).
  • High-earners – those earning at least £73,900 per year (reduced from £120,000) – do not need to have been working for the sponsoring business overseas for at least 12 months.
  • The “cooling off” rules will be adjusted for intra-company transfers, so that an overseas intra-company transfer must not hold entry clearance or leave to enter or remain as an intra-company transferee for more than five years in any six-year rolling period, except where they qualify as high earners to be granted up to nine years in any ten-year rolling period.
  • Those admitted on the route will be permitted to switch into the Skilled Worker route whilst still in the UK if they meet the qualifying requirements for that route.

Global Talent

  • Changes have been made to the definition of qualifying academic and research roles, and the criteria for senior appointments.

Service Providers from Switzerland

  • A new route is introduced for individuals employed by Swiss companies and self-employed Swiss citizens, coming to the UK for up to 90 days per year to fulfil contracts signed and commenced before the end of the Withdrawal Agreement transition period.

EU, Swiss and Turkish Citizens

  • EU or Swiss citizens with limited leave under Appendix EU (the EU Settlement Scheme or EUSS) on the basis of being resident in the UK before the end of the transition period can sponsor new family members (those not covered by the EUSS) to come to or remain in the UK.
  • Turkish workers and businesspersons with limited leave under Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay (or under legacy arrangements in respect of the European Communities Association Agreement or ECAA) can sponsor a partner and children to come to or remain in the UK.

Youth Mobility Scheme

  • San Marino is added to the Youth Mobility Scheme country list as a country without Deemed Sponsorship Status with an allocation of 1000 places.
  • South Korea is added to the list of countries where invitation to apply arrangements apply.

Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas)

  • Appendix: Hong Kong British National (Overseas) comes into force on 31 January 2021 and covers two routes – the BN(O) Status Holder route and the BN(O) Household Member route.
  • The BN(O) Status Holder route is for a BN(O) citizen who is ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK. A dependent partner and a dependent child of a BN(O) citizen can, if they are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK, apply under this route. In exceptional circumstances, other family members with a high degree of dependency may also apply.
  • The BN(O) Household Member route is for the adult child, born on or after 1 July 1997, of a BN(O) citizen. The BN(O) Household Member, and any dependent partner or child applying under this route must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK and form part of the same household as the BN(O) citizen.
  • The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) routes allow work and study.

Our Advice

  • Employers concerned about Brexit and the future UK immigration rules are encouraged to check our Brexit online resource.
  • Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021. Additionally, current UK sponsors should be sure to maintain their existing sponsor licence and compliance obligations, to minimise disruption under any new system.
  • Employers concerned about the future work mobility of UK nationals in the EU can also rely on Newland Chase’s global immigration services and expertise.
  • For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2019 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.