Major changes to Immigration Rules announced in the UK

Author: Hamza Malik

The Government published yesterday 297-pages of changes to the Immigration Rules. Separately, it also announced changes to the Immigration fees. Most of these changes will be effective from 29 March 2019.

The changes follow the Government’s white paper published in December 2018 and introduces new routes to the UK for entrepreneurs; replacing the existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, overhauling the existing Tier 1 (Investor) route and providing for the full opening of the EU Settlement Scheme.

There are also significant changes to the Tier 2 rules which include the removal of certain type of roles from the £30,000 minimum salary requirement. There are also updates to appropriate salary rates in the codes of practice in Appendix J.

Key changes to Immigration Rules

Tier 1 Entrepreneur & Graduate Entrepreneur changes

The biggest change in these immigration rules for prospective migrants to the UK is the closure of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route on 29 March 2019. The route which has been on the government’s hit-list for several years is now finally being closed and will be replaced by an Innovator Visa.

The existing Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa is being closed on 5 July 2019, but the government says as it was working well, it is being re-branded and incorporated into a Start-up visa.

Migrants currently on either of these routes will continue to be able to extend their visas under the old routes and settle under the transitional provisions.

The main feature of the Start-up and Innovator Visas is the requirement to be endorsed by UK bodies which will include business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers. These bodies will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability. These bodies will have an ongoing role for the purposes of these visas and will review the progress of visa holders.

There is also a higher English language requirement to B2 level from B1.

The focus on Appendix W

The Government’s focus is to move away from the Points-Based System and therefore these new routes are included in a separate appendix of the Immigration Rules; Appendix W.
The Government says that it anticipates other categories for workers will also be added to this Appendix over time.

Tier 1 (Investor) overhaul

The Home Office’s relationship with the Tier 1 (Investor) has also soured, however, it seems owing to the large amount of investment it brings to the UK, they have decided only to reform this route. The key changes, which also take effect from 29 March 2019, are:

  • Source of funds evidence should now cover a 2-year period up from the current 90-day requirement.
  • The requirement to open a UK Bank account is being tightened to make the bank carry out specific checks and confirm they had been carried out properly.
  • Investment in UK bonds will no longer be possible.
  • Where funds are being invested using intermediary vehicles, those intermediary vehicles will need to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). There is also a requirement to provide evidence of the final investment destination and how the funds are transferred there, regardless of how long any chain of intermediary vehicle is.
  • The definition of active and trading companies is also being tightened and stronger evidence will be sought to prove this.
  • A new provision to allow certain types of pooled investments.
  • The ‘genuineness’ definition is being extended to also cover circumstances where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the funds have been, or will be, transferred internationally by means which are unlawful in any of the countries involved.

Tier 2

The changes to Tier 2 focus on the salary being paid to potential migrants. The key changes include:

  • When the £30,000 minimum salary threshold was announced in 2016, nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin were granted a temporary extension from this rule until July 2019. The exemption is now being extended and will be reviewed as a part of the new immigration system [in 2021].
  • The Appropriate Salary rates in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules have received an update and therefore most roles will have higher minimum salary requirement.
  • There are technical changes being made to Table 11D which awards points in the monthly allocation cycle for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship. This will allow the Home Office to award more points to high earners after an increment of £1000 in salary (as opposed to the current £5000).

EU Settlement Scheme

The Immigration Rules make formal provision for the full opening of the EU Settlement Scheme on 30 March 2019. The changes announce:

  • The inclusion of EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland, and their family members in line with the citizens’ agreement reached with these countries.
  • The scheme will be open to the family members of British citizens who were exercising their free movement rights under EU law before returning to the UK (‘Surinder Singh’ cases, including extended family members in light of the Court of Justice of the European Union judgment in Banger) and to the family members of certain dual British/EU citizens (‘Lounes’ cases).
  • The scheme will also be open to others lawfully resident in the UK by virtue of a ‘derivative right’ to reside, based on wider EU law. These are ‘Chen carers’ (the primary carer of a self-sufficient EEA citizen child) and ‘Ibrahim and Teixeira’ cases (a child of a former EEA citizen worker who is in education in the UK and their primary carer).
  • Residence in the Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man) will be counted as UK residence for the purposes of the scheme, consistent with the wider operation of the Common Travel Area.
  • EEA and Swiss citizens previously resident in the UK will be able to count, as UK residence for the purposes of the scheme, time spent on an overseas posting as a Crown servant (working for the UK Government, for one of the Devolved Administrations or for the British Council), as will a partner or child of any nationality accompanying such a person or accompanying a member of HM Forces on an overseas posting.
  • Confirmation that the ‘no deal’ resident by requirement for EEA and Swiss nationals will also be reduced to 29 March 2019 rather than 30 December 2020.

Other changes

The rules also provide provision for Points Based System dependants and visitors who will be affected by the closure of the Entrepreneur routes.

There are also minor changes to Tier 4 route. These include the inclusion of Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Oman, Peru and Tunisia, in low-risk nationalities list for the lower document requirements. Argentina, the Maldives, and Trinidad and Tobago are being removed from the list.

The ‘Jamaican Nursing Exchange’ scheme has been added to the list of approved Government Authorised Exchange schemes for the purposes of Tier 5 visas.

Hong Kong will now be considered a country with deemed sponsorship status for the purposes of a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.

Those granted Statelessness visas will now receive a 5-year visa rather than a 30-month visa. This will remove the need to seek an extension to complete the 5-year period requirement for settlement. However, the rules are being tightened; to be eligible for this visa applicants will also be required to show steps they have taken to acquire another nationality (that they may be eligible for) even though they are technically stateless.

Immigration Fees

The Immigration fees are also changing on 29 March 2019, as opposed to 6 April 2019. Surprisingly there are no major increases, with most categories not facing any increase at all.

The only increase worth noting is the increase to Super Priority Fees for applications in the UK from £610 to £800.

The full changes can be found here.