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Important changes to immigration rules

April is a busy time of year for the UK Visas and Immigration Authority and below is an outline of some of the changes being implemented this month.

Employers should examine the changes carefully as it may directly affect their employees and the way they carry out their business.

Tier 1 – the category of the Points Based System for high value migrants
1. When submitting an application on or after 6 April 2015 for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, a mandatory requirement for all applicants is the submission of a business plan. Previously this was not mandatory but often requested by caseworkers in order to satisfy the ‘genuine entrepreneur’ test.

2. When submitting an application on or after 6 April 2015 for an extension or Indefinite Leave to Remain under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category, the caseworker will apply a ‘genuineness’ test to establish the genuineness of the applicant and their business and consider, amongst other things:

  • the credibility of the business activity
  • the financial accounts and viability and credibility of the source of money invested into the business
  • what this money has been spent on; and
  • whether the applicant genuinely intends to continue operating that business in the UK.

3. Migrants within the Tier 1 (General) category will no longer be able to switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category unless they have already established a UK business before 6 April 2015, or they have funding from a government department or endorsed seed funding competition.  A Tier 1 (General) migrant’s ability to switch into other PBS categories remains unchanged.

4. By way of a reminder, the Tier 1 (General) category was closed to new applicants in 2011 and existing Tier 1 (General) visa holders will not be able to apply to extend this visa from 6 April 2015.  Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain will be closed from 6 April 2018.  Any extension applications must therefore be submitted by 5 April 2015 and those carrying out Right to Work Checks should ensure the validity of a Tier 1 (General) visa and any application for extension relied on by the job applicant.

Tier 2 – the category of the Points Based System for highly skilled migrants
1. Updates to the Shortage Occupation List take effect from 6 April 2015.  The revised List includes amendments to graduate occupations in the health sector and paramedics will be added to the List.  In addition, some existing occupations are to be reclassified meaning that Tier 2 Sponsors looking to recruit should check the updated List.  There are also future plans to amend the List to include specific graduate occupations in the digital technology sector in the near future however no date has been confirmed.

2. The annual update to minimum salary thresholds and appropriate salary rates for individual occupations (as set out in codes of practice) will take effect from 6 April 2015 with the current and new thresholds summarised below:

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3. Employers will welcome the amendment to the 12 month ‘cooling off period’ which currently prevents migrants being granted a second period of leave under Tier 2 if they have been in the UK with Tier 2 leave in the previous 12 months.  The amendment, which takes effect for applications submitted on or after 6 April 2015, means that this cooling off period will not be applied where the previous period of Tier 2 leave was for 3 months or less, allowing employers greater flexibility.

1. The existing 15 routes for entry into the UK for visitors will be consolidated into 4 routes (standard, marriage or civil partnerships, permitted paid engagements and transit).  Part 2 of the Immigration Rules will be replaced to create a single set of Rules for visitors to apply to applications made on or after 24 April 2015.  The new Rules and associated guidance are yet to be published.

2. The Rules will also amend the current regime regarding the provision of financial support to visitors to permit any third party in the UK to provide such financial support and accommodation to a visitor, rather than such support being permitted from family and friends only. This will make it easier for businesses to support their employees visiting other countries for business activities.

3. The standard visitor route will incorporate business visitors and the range of activities such visitors will be able to carry out is to be increased.  For example, it will allow:

  • UK-based organisations to provide training to overseas visitors on work practices and techniques that are needed for their employment overseas, where this is not readily available in their home country;
  • overseas trainers to deliver training to UK-based employees of a multinational company where training is part of the contract to deliver global training to the international corporate group; and
  • visitors to carry out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days at a registered UK charity.

Looking ahead
The above is a summary of what we believe to be the most relevant changes for employers, and so each change is not detailed.

With the election looming and immigration a ‘hot topic’ for each party, it is almost certain that there will be further amendments for us to update you on later in the year.

Further information
For more details on these changes or on any other aspect of the law surrounding immigration and employment, please get in touch.