Update on April 2012 changes to UK Immigration Rules

The Home Secretary has set out the Government’s intention to break the link between work and staying in the UK permanently – and following a consultation period a number of changes have already been implemented.

On 6 April, the Government will make some further changes to the Immigration Rules in pursuit of its programme to reform of the migration routes. These changes were laid before Parliament on 15 March and will come into force on 6 April.

The Additional changes will apply to the following categories:

  1. Settlement for Tier 2 Migrants;
  2. Visitors;
  3. Overseas Domestic Workers; and
  4. Tier 5 temporary workers.

 

Changes to settlement for Tier 2 (General, Minister of Religion, Sportsperson)

From 6 April 2012, those applying for settlement from Tier 2 and who entered Tier 2 under the rules in force from 6 April 2011, must be being paid at least £35,000 per annum orn the going rate in the relevant UK Border Agency Code of Practice, whichever is higher. This minimum rate is fixed until April 2018. This is an additional requirement is in addition to existing requirements for settlement. The settlement pay threshold of £35,000 will not apply to those who entered Tier 2 under the rules in force before this date. This category may apply for indefinite further periods of temporary leave.

Exceptions:

  • for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List at any time during the period of employment (although market rate salary must be paid);
  • those in designated “PhD-level” jobs (although market rate salary must be paid); and
  • Ministers of Religion.

Migrants in the affected categories will be able to stay for up to six years in Tier 2 (initial leave of three years, and an extension of up to three years). They will be able to apply for settlement, if they meet the criteria, after five years (as now) and at any point up to the expiry of their leave.

Those who do not apply for or obtain settlement must leave the UK on expiry of their leave and wait 12 months before applying to return in Tier 2. This will prevent repeat periods of leave in Tier 2 and will be known as the 'cooling off' period.

The UKBA will continue to allow Tier 2 migrants to be accompanied by or joined by their dependants, who will still be able to work while in the UK.

 

Visitors

There will be a new Visitor category called ‘permitted paid engagements’ for specified categories of fee-paid workers on short-term assignments, outside the Points-Based System.

The permitted activities are as follows:

  • visiting to give a lecture, examining students, participating in or chairing selection panels;
  • overseas designated air-pilot examiners assessing UK pilots to ensure they meet the national air regulatory requirements of those countries;
  • providing advocacy in a particular area of law as a qualified lawyer in a court or tribunal hearing, arbitration or other form of alternative dispute resolution in the UK;
  • professional artists, entertainers or sports-persons carrying out an activity relating to their main profession e.g. artists exhibiting and selling their works; authors doing book signings; entertainers giving one off or a short series of performances and sports-persons providing guest commentary in their field of sport.

If successful, leave will be granted for 1 month (single entry) with no option to extend. All other requirements of the visitor rules must be met.

 

Overseas Domestic Workers -  in private households

Overseas Domestic Workers in private households will only be allowed to accompany visitors (or their spouses or children) to the UK. They will be allowed to work for this visitor but must leave the UK with the visitor after a maximum of six months. They may not extend their stay, switch employer, sponsor dependants or settle in the UK from this route.

There will be heightened pre-entry checks by seeking more evidence that there is an established employer-employee relationship. The new Rules will affect those applying to enter these routes on or after 6 April 2012.

Those already in this route before 6 April 2012 will remain subject to the current rules.

 

Overseas Domestic Workers -  in Diplomatic households

Overseas Domestic Workers in diplomatic households will be allowed to stay for the duration of the stay of the diplomat for whom they are working, up to a maximum of five years whichever comes first. They may not switch employer or settle in the UK from this route, but may sponsor dependants. The new Rules will affect those applying to enter these routes on or after 6 April 2012. Those already in this route before 6 April 2012 will remain subject to the current rules.

The definitive version is expected to be set out in the Immigration Rules and formal guidance which the UKBA will publish separately.

 

Tier 5 - temporary workers

Leave in certain Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) schemes in Tier 5 , those for work experience, will be limited to 12 rather than 24 months. The new Rules will affect those applying to enter these routes on or after 6 April 2012. Those already in this route before 6 April 2012 will remain subject to the current rules.

 

Tier 2 ICT - update on quota limits

There are no changes to report in this category. Policy confirmation on the arrangements for the Tier 2 limit in 2012-13 and associated policies will be released shortly. Dependants of ICT workers can continue to work freely. The UKBA is also considering changes to the Family Migration route, which were the subject of a separate consultation and which will be announced in due course.

 

Changes already laid before parliament and due to take effect on the 6 April :

  • Tier 1 - closure of Post-Study Work
  • introduction of Graduate Entrepreneurs
  • Tier 4 (students)

Information concerning these changes can be found in our previous briefing.has been provided in our last newsletter.

 

Family Migration consultation

The UKBA is currently considering proposals to extend the probationary period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement in the UK from the current two years to five years. The UKBA is also considering whether an English Language skills threshold should be applied to dependants. The outcome of this review will be published later this year.

For assistance with how these changes could affect you, contact our Immigration team.

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