Latest Changes to UK Immigration Rules - | Hudson McKenzie

Latest Changes to UK Immigration Rules

On 22nd October 2020, the UK Government laid a new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, providing pivotal policy changes to UK immigration.

It is pertinent to note that majority of these changes will come into effect between 1 December 2020 and 1 January 2021.

These amendments are directly applicable to:

  • Visitors
  • Short-term Study route
  • Skilled Worker route
  • Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)route
  • Meeting English language and financial requirements
  • Meeting Knowledge of Life in the UK
  • European Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and EUSS Family Permit

Visitors

The latest changes allow for the following:

  • Permits individual study for a period of six months or less under the standard visit route. All study must be undertaken at an accredited institution. This excludes recreational courses undertaken for leisure that last no longer than 30 days and do not lead to a formal qualification.
  • Drivers on international routes are permitted to collect and deliver goods and passengers in and out of the UK.
  • Removal of the requirement for volunteering to be incidental to the main reason for the visit.
  • Harmonising the extension rules for visiting academics undertaking the full range of academic-permitted activities.

Short-term Study route

This route replaces the current short-term study route. This is being introduced for students who wish to come to the UK to study short-term English language courses. This must last for a period of between 6 and 11 months and the selected course of study must come from an accredited institution. Students wishing to study in the UK for six months or less may now do so under the Visitor route.

Skilled Worker route

The key characteristics of the new route are that an applicant must be sponsored to do a specific job which meets skill and salary requirements and is under an employer who has been licensed by the Home Office. The main characteristics for the Skilled Worker route are outlined below:

  • The minimum skill threshold is being extended from graduate occupations to occupations skilled to RQF level 3, roughly equivalent to A-levels or Scottish Highers.  Applicants will not be required to hold a formal qualification; the factor determining whether they meet the skills threshold is the skill level of the job they will be doing.
  • The minimum salary threshold is being lowered from £30,000 per annum to £25,600 per annum.  Sponsors are required to pay their skilled workers either a salary equivalent to the stipulated salary threshold or is the “going rate” for the occupation, whichever is higher. 
  • Sponsored workers may not be required to meet the above salary thresholds if they have been allocated tradable points that are equivalent. Applicants must score 70 points in total, 50 of which are accumulated by meeting the mandatory criteria (sponsorship, skill level and command of the English language). An applicant may be awarded the remaining 20 tradeable points equivalent to the salary threshold requirement via a combination of points, such as working under a shortage occupation or holding a relevant PhD qualification.
  • The cap which currently applies under Tier 2 (General) is being suspended. This will reduce the end-to-end process for sponsoring skilled workers by up to four weeks. 
  • In addition, there will be no requirement for sponsors to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). This will again reduce the end-to-end process by a further four weeks.
  • The criteria used to identify a “new entrant to the labour market” are being amended.
  • The 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route will be removed.
  • The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications is also due to be removed.
  • Those sponsored in shortage occupations or listed in health or education occupations may be paid £20,480 per year, if their salary is the same or exceeds the going rate for the occupation. Other salary reductions permitted through tradeable points will not be available for settlement applications.
  • To recruit overseas workers through the Skilled Worker Route, you must be registered as a licensed sponsor. The Skilled Worker Route will open for applications from December 2020.

Intra-Company Transfer route

The changes are as follows:

  • The cooling-off requirement has been amended. Instead of migrants being barred from re-entering the UK as an ICT for 12 months after departing, they will be permitted to hold Intra-Company Transfer leave for up to 5 years in any 6-year consecutive period or up to 9 years in any 10-year period for high earners.
  • A single high earner threshold of £73,900 (previously there was a second threshold of £120,000). 
  • The ability of people to move onto the route (switching) when already in the UK.

English language, Financial requirements and Knowledge of Life in the UK

  • Applicants will only be required to demonstrate the required level of English language to the Home Office once.
  • The majority speaking English language country list (where nationality is proof of English language ability) has been updated to include Malta and allow people with a degree from Ireland to rely on that as evidence of their English language ability.
  • Applicants who have gained GCSE/A Levels or Scottish Highers in English whilst at school in the UK can rely on this as proof of their English language ability. Initially, this will apply only to entry clearances and permission to stay for Students, Skilled Workers, Start-ups and Innovators.
  • Applicants can now rely on electronic bank statements without requiring that they be certified by the bank on each page.
  • Applicants can show they meet maintenance requirements by relying on a wider range of accounts.

What next?

UK employers and businesses must now “adapt and adjust” to the end of free movement of EU workers. Ultimately, businesses seeking to recruit migrant workers from overseas, including the EU, must be aware of many obligations that they are now subject to adhere to.

Companies wishing to hire migrant workers must obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office. In addition, they must be certain of the eligibility of these workers to enter the UK under the new 70 points-based immigration system, by meeting the requisite salary thresholds and skill levels of the system. Finally, they must recognise and adapt in accordance with the policy changes whilst also keeping up to date with the latest information from the Home Office.

Should you require further information or would like an informal discussion regarding your circumstances, please get in touch with one of our UK Immigration Lawyers on +44 (0) 20 3318 5794 or via email at londoninfo@hudsonmckenzie.com.