UK Border Agency publishes Statement of Intent - changes to take effect on 6 April 2012

Following the Immigration Minister’s recent announcement regarding future reforms to the immigration system, the UK Border Agency have now published their Statement of Intent.

The proposed changes will be laid down in Parliament on 15 March 2012 and will take effect on 6 April 2012. These changes will further assist the UK Border Agency’s plans for controlling immigration and reducing net migration to sustainable levels.

Below is an overview of the proposed changes:

Students and sponsors – Tier 4 of the Points Based System

  • Following the requirement for educational establishments to become Highly Trusted, an initial allocation of Confirmations of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) under the interim limit was granted in April 2011. A new interim allocation will be made available to institutions until December 2012.
  • From April 2012, the time spent studying in the UK under Tier 4 at degree level will be limited to five years. Tier 4 migrants studying a Master’s or PhD degree, following completion of a four or five-year undergraduate degree course, will be able to remain in the UK for a longer period of time, six or eight years respectively.
  • International students who are not studying at degree level or above at a Higher Educational Institution (HEI) will be restricted to spending a maximum of one third of course time on a work placement.
  • Tier 4 HEI sponsors will no longer be permitted to issue a single CAS to pre-sessional course students whose English is below Level B2.
  • There will be no changes in respect of permission to work in the UK for Tier 4 migrants.

Routes for graduates to remain in the UK

Tier 2 employment

Due to Tier 1 (Post Study Work) closing to new applicants on 5 April 2012, new provisions will be introduced under Tier 2 (General) to enable talented graduates to remain and work in the UK.

Graduates will be required to secure a job offer from a UK company and meet the Tier 2 (General) requirements, although employers will be exempt from completing a resident labour market test. Graduate jobs will not be subject to the annual limit on Tier 2.

Graduates will be able to switch to a Tier 2 status together with any dependants who they sponsored whilst under Tier 4. Should Tier 4 dependants seek to switch into Tier 2 (General) in their own right, they will be subject to the Tier 2 limit. If a Tier 4 migrant is switching into a Tier 2 status whilst having valid leave to remain, they will be allowed to commence their employment . The employer should however not offer a permanent contract until the Tier 2 application is approved.

New route – Graduate Entrepreneurs

A-rated Tier 2 and HEI Tier 4 sponsors who identify migrants in the UK as having developed world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills, but who are not in a position to fully meet the requirements of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, will be able to develop their business in the UK under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route. There will be overall limit of 1,000 places for the first year. Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave will initially be granted for 12 months and may be extended for a further year, after which a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrant will be permitted to switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. Switching applicants will only be required to provide evidence that they are in possession of  £50,000 rather than the standard £200,000. The same criteria will also apply to Tier 1 (Post Study Work) migrants already in the UK. Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa holders will be permitted to undertake other employment for up to 20 hours a week and to sponsor dependants - provided they meet Tier 1 maintenance requirements. Time in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category will not count towards the qualifying period for settlement in the UK.

Maintenance funds

The maintenance funds requirement has remained the same since the introduction of the Points Based System in November 2008. The government is now increasing maintenance levels in order to reflect the present-day costs of living in the UK.

Workers

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneurs and Graduate Entrepreneurs will be required to show £3,100 for entry clearance and £900 for leave to remain applications. The latter will also apply to existing Tier 1 General visa holders. Exemption from the maintenance funds requirement for Tier 1 Investor and Exceptional Talent migrants and their dependants will remain in force. 
  • Tier 2 and 5 migrants will be expected to show funds of £900. At present, A-rated Sponsors are permitted to undertake maintenance for them, although it is not clear from the statement whether this will remain in force as of April 2012.
  • Dependants of Tier 1 migrants will need to show £1,800 if the sponsor has been in the UK for less than 12 months. Otherwise, they will be required to demonstrate £600 along with Tier 2 and 5 dependants.
  • Tier 4 (General) migrants will be required to show £1,000 (inner London) or £800 (elsewhere) per month for up to a maximum of nine months. Students with an established presence in the UK will need to show funds for a maximum of two months.

Students

  • Dependants of Tier 4 (General) students will be required to show £600 (inner London) or £450 (elsewhere) per month for up to a maximum of nine months. Dependants of students with an established presence in the UK will need to show funds for a maximum of two months.
  • The UK Border Agency have also proposed an increase in the amount of living costs a Tier 4 (Child) student will have to evidence. This will vary depending on whether the child will be studying at a non-residential independent school and is in private foster care or is accompanied by a parent, or is studying whilst living independently either in inner London or elsewhere in the UK.
  • The UK Border Agency will permit a maximum amount of £1,000 to be paid as a deposit towards accommodation which can be used as an offset against the maintenance funds requirement. The Government proposes this new introduction to protect students and reduce the risk of abuse..

In addition to the proposed changes above, the Government will shortly be announcing reforms on employment related settlement, overseas domestic workers, and Tier 2 and 5 which will come into effect in April 2012. Changes to the family route will be announced in due course.

To discuss these changes in more detail please contact the Mazars Immigration services team.

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