Changes to the UK Immigration Rules: Mainly Affecting Work Tier 2 Visa Routes

New immigration rules changes – September 2019

UK Immigration law continues to change constantly, and the new Statement of Changes to the immigration rules was published on the 9th of September 2019. The announced changes should come into force in October 2019, hence if you are making an application prior to this time, it will still be considered under the old rules.

In a nutshell, the changes are as follows:

Worker -Tier 2 Visa

  • The list of shortage occupations has been expanded, to include, for example, psychologists and architects.
  • The restriction to being able to sponsor chefs for restaurants offering takeaway services has been removed, so finally a response to the hospitality industry!
  • Some salary rates have been modified, e.g. for chemical scientists, the new entrant required salary would be £22,300, whilst an experienced worker would be expected to earn at least £29,000.
  • Absences from the UK whilst conducting research that relates directly to tier 2 employment (PhD occupations level), will not count towards the 180 days allowed absences (the same applies to partners).
  • PhD level occupations will be exempt from the annual limit. 
  • Those whose salary falls below the required threshold as a result of absence from work due to sickness, statutory parental leave, assisting in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis, or engaging in legal strike action, may still apply for indefinite leave to remain, if the salary was directly affected by any of the above.

UK Students Visa

  • Students on Tier 4 (General) visas will be able to start working for Tier 2 sponsors within 3 months of the completion of their degree.
  • Tier 4 students studying at Masters and PhD level will be allowed to start a different course of study with their current sponsor while they have leave, without having to make an application from overseas.

NB: more positive changes to come i.e. two years post-study work visa announced to return!

English language

  • Appendix O will be scrapped, and details of acceptable English tests will be on the main gov.uk page.
  • A unique reference number for both the English language test and the Life in the UK test would be sufficient for making a visa application, and remove the need to upload certificates; this is a useful change as the Home Office can simply check their records.
  • No need to pass an additional English language test for Tier 2 doctors, dentists, nurses or midwifes whose English language has been already assessed by the relevant regulated professional body as a requirement for registration, which definitely will make things much easier for health practitioners.

Start-up and innovator 

  • When applying under the Start-up category, the applicant must have not previously established any business in the UK.
  • A specific requirement has been added for an organisation wishing to become an endorsing body under these routes, i.e. the request may be refused on the grounds of criminality or other actions or behaviour which are non-conducive to the public good or due to conflicts of interest.

Tier 1 (investors)

  • UK government bonds will no longer be qualifying investments for Tier 1 (Investors), however those who already on the Tier 1 (Investor) route, prior to the 29th of March 2019, will be able to extend their leave, provided that they move their investment out of UK government bonds before the 6th of April 2023, whilst those wishing to apply for indefinite leave to remain must move them before the 6th of April 2025.

Tier 5

  • The list of organisations permitted to sponsor researchers under the “UK Research and Innovation – Science, Research and Academia” scheme has been expanded.

Administrative review

  • Administrative review applications should be now made online, unless the applicant has made a valid paper application.

Comment

The list of the immigration changes is quite long, but definitely the majority should have a positive impact, especially those related to tier 2 and tier 4 migrants. One of the longest awaited changes is to allow restaurants offering a takeaway service to also sponsor chefs!

Changes to the Tier 1 (investor route) are a bit less positive, as the UK government bonds will no longer be qualifying investments, however, the rules give some time for those already in the UK on this route to make appropriate adaptations.

Overall, we think that the changes have been positive and look forward to more of the same!