Home Office introduces changes to UK immigration system
The Home Office has announced several changes to the UK Immigration Rules which will take effect from 6th April 2015, including a higher minimum salary level for Tier 2 visas and consolidated visitor visa categories. We have provided a summary of the changes below.
Tier 2 Minimum Salary Level Increase
Individuals entering the Tier 2 category must now be paid at least the minimum salary for their visa category or the minimum salary for their particular job, whichever is higher. The new Rules amend both standards. The Tier 2 minimum salary levels for each visa category are increasing by 1.2%, in line with wage inflation. A Long Term Intra-Company Transferee, for instance, will need to be paid £41,500 – an increase of £500. Salaries for particular jobs (known as SOC codes) will also increase.
Waiving the Cooling-Off period for Tier 2 short-term Assignees
The cooling-off period prevents a Tier 2 assignee from returning to the UK with a new Tier 2 visa for twelve months from the date of expiration of their last visa. Otherwise, the assignee can demonstrate that he or she left the UK and the cooling-off period will begin from the date of their departure. The current rule applies equally irrespective of how long the Tier 2 migrant spent in the UK, with limited exemptions. The cooling-off period for short-term grants of 3 months of less will be waived. This will provide companies with the ability to sponsor interns and bring them back to the UK for permanent employment within one year.
Non-EEA nationals applying for a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 visa of more than six months’ duration will be subject to a health surcharge for each year of visa status. The surcharge is set at £200 per year and £150 per year for students, with dependents generally paying the same amount as the main applicant. Payment of the surcharge will be a mandatory requirement for affected groups and will be paid as part of the immigration application process. It will apply to applications where payment is made on or after 6 April 2015. The surcharge will notapply to visitors, such as tourists or those coming to the UK for less than 6 months, or to EEA nationals residing in the UK. Tier 2 – intra-company transfer migrants and their dependents are also exempt.
Tier 2 inter-company transfers, Australian and New Zealand nationals must still complete the process through the surcharge web site. They will be informed the payment is nil but receive a unique surcharge reference number. This number is needed for their immigration application to confirm their exemption from the surcharge.
Cutting the existing 15 Visit Visa routes down to four routes
Please refer to our previous article by clicking here.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa
Initial applicants must now submit a business plan. Previously, this was not a mandatory document, but was often requested to help applicants demonstrate a genuine intention to set up a UK business. Applicants relying on their own funds to set up a business must provide evidence of the third-party source of those funds if they have held the funds for less than 90 days prior to their initial application.
A change is being made to the provision for applicants with business funding from a UK or Devolved Government Department to make it clear that government funding by an intermediary public body may be acceptable, as long as that body confirms that the funds were made available for the purpose of establishing or expanding a UK business. Additionally, any applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) extension and indefinite leave to remain will be subject to a genuineness test which is similar to the genuine entrepreneur test currently in use for initial applications.
Restrictions will be imposed on Tier 1 (General) Migrants who seek to switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category, unless they have already established a UK business before April 6, 2015, or they have funding from a government body or an endorsed funding source, as listed on the UK Trade & Investment website.
Tier 1 (Investor) Category Constraints
Prospective investors will be required to open a UK-regulated investment account before making an initial application. This change will ensure UK banks carry out due diligence checks on investors who apply for entry clearance or leave to remain. The minimum age of applicants will increase from 16 to 18 years. Additionally, applicants will no longer need to invest additional capital if they sell part of their investments at a loss, but they will be required to maintain all their capital within their investment portfolios. Applicants will still be able to buy and sell investments as long as the investor does not withdraw any capital.
Biometric Residence Permits
Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) for non-EEA nationals travelling to the UK for more than six months will begin to be issued from the 18th March 2015, starting with applications made in Pakistan. The rollout will continue in three further phases from mid-April (including China and India), end May (including Japan and Nigeria) and end July (rest of the world).
Applicants will receive a 30 day vignette in their passport instead of a vignette with the full grant of leave. This is to allow the applicant to enter the UK and collect their BRP from a designated post office.
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