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Tiers before bedtime...UK immigration rules to be amended

26/06/2018 News Team

Immigration rules in the UK will be amended affecting a number of categories, with effect from 6 July 2018, law firm Pinsent Masons has noted. 

The main changes and tidying up provisions apply to the following categories:

Tier two: the monthly cap

The Home Office has made changes to exempt doctors and nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) from the monthly Tier 2 (General) restricted COS limit, which it has suggested will free up about 40 percent of all Tier two places. Although applications need to be made by 5 July the actual decision process will take place on 11 July. The monthly limit may still be exceeded in the next couple of months, given the current accumulation in applications. Those recruiting for NHS roles will still be required to perform a resident labour market test to prove that they were unable to find a suitable UK worker. However, visas will now be allocated from the employer's unrestricted COS allocation. 

The government has also indicated that the 10 percent limit on shares which a Tier two migrant can hold in their sponsor includes shares held indirectly, as well as directly. 

Tier one: visas

The range of roles enforced under the arts field by the British Fashion Council operating within the endorsement remit of Arts Council England is to expand to include those in the fashion industry who operate leading designer fashion businesses.

This targeting of specific roles and sectors is becoming an increasing feature of the skilled work-related routes. Another example is the proposed changes to the existing Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur scheme announced by the government on 13 June designed to attract those who wish to start a business in the UK, particularly high-tech start-up businesses.

The evidence requirements for applicants who are investors have also been tightened. Currently, applicants must submit a portfolio report as evidence that investments have been maintained at the required £2 million level and signed off by a financial institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The financial institution must now also confirm that the funds have only been invested in qualifying investments, and that no loan has been secured against the funds.

Tier four: (student) visas

The government has further made a number of changes which will help Tier four students, and are broadly good news for Tier four sponsoring institutions.

The minimum length that a postgraduate course needs to be in order for a Tier four migrant to be eligible to bring dependants with them to the UK is being reduced from 12 months to nine months. The Home Office will also now accept printouts from awarding bodies' online checking services as evidence of previous qualifications, although it can request to see the original certificate of qualification or transcript if required.

Documentary requirements have been reduced for students from Bahrain, Cambodia, China and the Macau SAR, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kuwait, the Maldives, Mexico, Serbia and Thailand and ATAS certificates will now be required from students who undertake a period of study of any length as part of an overseas postgraduate qualification. This was previously not required if the period was for less than six months.

Another change which will take effect is the calculation of absences. The government has backtracked on its original decision to make a change to the calculation of the no more than 180 day absence requirement for most applicants applying for leave to remain in a work-related category.

Before 11 January 2018, this was calculated on a 12 month basis by dividing the relevant five-year period up to the date of a settlement application into five separate 12 month periods. The applicant was only required to meet the 180 day limit in each of those 12 month periods. The requirement was widened on 11 January 2018 so that the 180 day limit could not be exceeded in any 12 month period during that time.

The Home Office has further accepted that provisions relating to continuity of leave are more generous for those making in-country applications, compared to those making applications from abroad. 

Furthermore, the rules now make a distinction between returning residents who have been absent from the UK for under two years and those who have been absent for longer than two years. The latter must apply for leave to enter and must show that they have strong ties to the UK and intend to make the UK their permanent home. This is a weaker test than that which applied in the past, where in practice only exceptional circumstances might enable a successful application.

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