The immigration minister recently announced some positive changes for Tier 1 (General) migrants in the latest statement of changes to the Immigration Rules. Tier 1 (General) migrants applying to extend their visa before next year's cut-off will be granted either three years (as at present) or the balance needed to take their time in that category to five years.
The Home Office recently published changes to the Immigration Rules. The key changes affect sponsors of Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) and Tier 2 (General) applications, the Youth Mobility Scheme, Tier 2 (Sportsperson) and Tier 5 (Temporary worker – creative and sporting) and business visitors who are employees of international law firms with offices in the United Kingdom.
The Migration Advisory Committee has launched its latest partial call for evidence on certain shortage occupations, after the government received evidence that there are issues with the supply of suitably skilled workers in some parts of the information and communications technology, health and energy sectors. Responses to the call for evidence must be received by December 5 2014.
The Department of Health has published an implementation plan to cover the phased roll-out of an National Health Service cost recovery scheme for some migrants, including EU nationals. With the exception of Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer applicants, all migrants applying for a visa of more than six months' duration will be required to pay the surcharge with their visa application fee.
The government is continuing to roll out improvements to the visa process for Chinese migrants and business visitors applying for a visa in China, and has recently announced the introduction of two further improvements to the service. In addition, the Home Office has announced that it will reduce the percentage of student visa refusals which can lead to the removal of universities' Highly Trusted Sponsor status.
The Home Office recently published a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, with some provisions already in effect. The changes restrict the ability of those already in the United Kingdom as Tier 4 (Student) or Tier 1 (Post-study Work) migrants to make an in-country application for an extension of stay under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route. Certain tests have also been removed from the list of approved English language tests.
Home Secretary Theresa May recently announced further improvements to the processing of visitor visas for Chinese nationals. A super-priority 24-hour visa service will soon be rolled out across China for all visitor applicants, while talks are ongoing to introduce a single application procedure for both a UK and Schengen visa. A British-Irish visa scheme will also be introduced for Chinese and Indian nationals.
The Immigration Bill has finally received royal assent and will now pass into law. The main provisions of the bill have remained intact, with minor amendments. The new Immigration Act 2014 contains 77 new clauses, including the controversial new requirement for private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants to prevent illegal migrants from accessing privately rented accommodation.
The Home Office has published an updated code of practice on preventing illegal working. Among other changes, the requirement for employers to carry out annual right-to-work checks on all employees with limited permission to reside in the United Kingdom has been removed. The Home Office will also be automating certificate of sponsorship renewals in the Tier 2 General and Tier 5 categories for all sponsors.
The government recently announced its latest plans to tackle a number of additional illegal working practices. The Home Office has increased the maximum fine for employers paying below the national minimum wage and has implemented regulations to tackle recruitment agencies which discriminate against UK workers. The Home Office has also introduced a range of changes to make sponsorship IT systems more efficient.
Changes to the Immigration Rules were introduced on April 6 2014, which will significantly affect several visa routes. Among other things, required maintenance amounts have increased, minimum salary thresholds have been updated and the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route is now available to leading talent in the digital technology sector.
The Home Office will soon update the salary rates set out in the codes of practice for skilled employees. At the same time, it will replace several standard occupation classification codes with multiple options to correspond with the various job levels within those occupations. The transition to the new salary rates means that the Home Office will adjust the arrangements for restricted certificates of sponsorship in April and May 2014.
The maximum civil penalty for employing illegal migrant workers will double from £10,000 to £20,000. This change was headlined in the 2013 Home Office consultation, in response to which 62% of employers agreed that the maximum penalty should be increased for those that repeatedly breach the legislation.
The Home Office recently announced fee changes for visas, immigration and nationality applications. Most fees will be increased, while dependants will see the removal of the discount applied to their fees when submitting an application at the same time as the main applicant. Tier 2 applicants will now be able to apply for entry clearance or leave to remain for up to five years, although this comes with a hefty price tag.
The government recently published its response to the public consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to National Health Service provision in England. The anticipated health surcharge for temporary migrants will be introduced, subject to the government carrying out further investigations into exemptions. The surcharge will apply to all migrants entering the United Kingdom on a visa for either work or study.
A number of recent Home Office initiatives will facilitate more efficient processing through immigration control. These include the introduction of an electronic visa waiver scheme for certain Middle Eastern business travellers, the launch of ePassport gates at London Gatwick Airport and the unveiling of a new Visa4UK website.
Over the coming months the Home Office will introduce a number of streamlined visa services for visitors to the United Kingdom, including a simplified visa application process for Chinese visitors and an invitation-only service providing top business executives with bespoke support from UK Visas and Immigration.
The Home Office recently announced the entry into force of the Registered Traveller Scheme. Selected individuals travelling to the United Kingdom as visitors from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States can be processed as registered travellers, provided that they have travelled to the United Kingdom four or more times in a preceding 52-week period.
A number of changes to the Immigration Rules recently came into effect, providing greater flexibility for businesses and workers. They include removing the English language requirement for intra-company transferees when they extend their stay in the United Kingdom after three years, making it easier for graduate entrepreneurs to switch into Tier 2 and waiving share ownership restrictions for senior staff.
The Home Office recently introduced changes to the police registration procedure for certain migrants arriving to live, work or study in the London area. If registration is required, this will be written in the individual's passport. A new requirement is that all relevant migrants staying in the Metropolitan Police area can register only at the Overseas Visitors Records Office in London.
Individuals booking a premium visa appointment at a public enquiry office will now be asked to pay their entire fee (both the premium fee and appointment fee) upfront when booking the appointment online. This replaces the arrangement whereby representatives with pre-allocated representative slots for their clients could book appointments directly with the public enquiry office and only the appointment fee was paid in advance.
The Home Office is introducing a range of priority visa services in many visa application centres around the world, including business visitor and Tier 2 visa applications. The Home Office has also announced a pilot programme for the early return of passports for Tier 2 intra-company transfer applicants using the postal route to submit their application for further leave to remain.
The Home Office is carrying out a consultation on the civil penalty regime applicable to employers that are found to be employing individuals with no permission to work in the United Kingdom. The changes proposed in the consultation document are welcome in that they appear to be aimed at simplifying the existing regime for preventing illegal working and for targeting repeat offenders.
Recent developments in immigration law include the Home Office's introduction of the Business Helpdesk for employer queries about becoming a sponsor or hiring migrants; the launch of public consultations on proposed changes to provisions on migrants' access to healthcare and privately rented accommodation; and the Home Office's internal review on how the application of immigration policies for skilled workers can improve.
Recent immigration developments include the entry into force of regulations governing Croatian nationals' access to the UK labour market in light of Croatia's accession to the European Union; changes to the Immigration Rules clarifying certain acceptable documentation, definitions and exemptions; and the introduction of a pilot same-day super-priority visa service for business visitors.
UK Border Control will shortly be introducing a new airport border service. The Frequent Registered Traveller Scheme will be rolled out by the beginning of July 2013. It will allow business visitors to enter the United Kingdom using a priority route – that is, a 'fast lane' – when going through the border control.
The Home Office has announced plans to introduce a wide range of improvements to its IT systems, including the sponsorship management system. Among other things, key dates related to sponsor licences will now be displayed, an application and licence renewal tracking function will be introduced and the sponsorship management system menu structure and content will be revised to provide for greater ease of navigation.
Among other recent developments, the government has clarified the organisational changes affecting the Border Agency in the transition of its functions to the Home Office; UK visa applicants in India will now have the option of paying their visa fees online via credit or debit cards; and the Home Office is removing the full right of appeal for applicants that have been refused leave to enter the United Kingdom as a family visitor.
The Home Office has published a statement of intent outlining planned changes to requirements for those applying to settle in the United Kingdom or become naturalised UK citizens, which will come into effect in October 2013. Those who apply for settlement under the pre-October 2013 rules can settle under those rules, but if they naturalise after October 2013 they will have to qualify under the new rules at that stage.
The Border Agency has introduced new immigration rules affecting points-based system migrants, as well as foreign migrant spouses of British nationals. The new rules include exemptions from the English-language requirement for certain intra-company transferees and adjustments to the permitted changes to a Tier 2 migrant's salary that may be made without requiring a fresh application.
The UK Border Agency recently published its latest statement of intent, accepting the Migration Advisory Committee's recommendations on changes to appropriate salary rates for occupations. Among other things, a lower pay threshold for new entrant employees will be introduced, while certain occupations will use bespoke pay scales and will not be subject to the rules on pay progression.
Following a call for evidence issued by the Migration Advisory Committee on the Shortage Occupation List and review of the creative occupations in Tier 2, the committee recently published its recommendations, which include reducing the overall employment covered by the list, increasing the number of engineering jobs and reducing the number of health sector jobs on the list.
The updated Life in the UK Test Handbook was recently published for applicants wishing to settle in the United Kingdom or apply to be naturalised as a British citizen. Those intending to sit the Life in the UK Test after March 25 2013 will need to ensure that they obtain this handbook, as the test will include questions on all sections of the new handbook and not only a few selected chapters, as is currently the case.
The UK Border Agency is now sending out emails to sponsors notifying them that they can apply for the next annual allocation of certificates of sponsorship for Tier 2. The current allocation for sponsoring organisations will expire on April 5 2013. Sponsors will thus be unable to assign new certificates of sponsorship from April 6 2013 unless their allocation request has been processed by the Border Agency.
The UK Border Agency has announced that the Youth Mobility Scheme for Japanese nationals will be open for applicants in January 2013. Only 1,000 places will be available, which will enable successful applicants to live, work and study in the United Kingdom for up to two years.
The UK Border Agency recently laid new immigration rules before Parliament, the majority of which are due to come into force on December 13 2012. Some of the changes represent a relaxation of current rules, while others are in response to abuse. Among other things, the new rules lower the English language requirement for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications and extend the permitted length of stay for Tier 2 intra-company transfers.
Croatia is expected to join the European Union in July 2013. The UK Border Agency has stated its commitment to applying transitional restrictions on labour market access to nationals of any future member states of the European Union as a matter of course, and therefore restrictions will be applied to Croatian nationals.
The Border Agency has launched the long-awaited priority postal processing pilot for Tier 2 extension applications where the applicant has previously been issued a biometric residence permit or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. The initial pilot will cater to a maximum of 30 applicants a day on a first come, first served basis. It is hoped that this will alleviate the existing strain on fast-track appointment slots.
The Migration Advisory Committee has recently issued a call for evidence on the Shortage Occupation List. It is strongly recommend that employers provide evidence relating to the Shortage Occupation List, particularly if they currently recruit migrants for positions on the list.
Sponsors that obtained their sponsor licence immediately following the introduction of the Points Based System in November 2008 will now receive notifications from the UK Border Agency regarding the renewal process. A further notification will be sent to sponsors three months before the licence expiry date, when the renewal function will be activated on the Sponsor Management System.
The UK Border Agency will no longer notify a sponsor when certain requests to change sponsor details through the Sponsor Management System have been granted. Sponsors will be able to use the 'view recent and outstanding requests' or 'view user list' function in the Sponsor Management System to track the progress and outcome of some requests.
It is no longer possible to submit British nationality applications to the UK high commission or consulate in the applicant's home country. Instead, all applications – with the exception of those in Hong Kong – will need to be submitted to the UK Border Agency in the United Kingdom.
The UK Border Agency has announced that students who worked as interns in the United Kingdom in Summer 2012 and wish to return to a graduate job with the same company are temporarily exempt from the cooling-off rules. The rules, introduced for Tier 2 (General) migrants in April 2012, require those who have left Tier 2 to wait one year from the end of their last application before reapplying through that route.
The Migration Advisory Committee has launched a call for evidence to enable it to review various issues around the Tier 2 Codes of Practice and report back to the government. The call for evidence covers a number of topics, including the updating of the list of occupations skilled to National Qualifications Framework 6 to reflect the new Standard Occupational Classification 2010.
Despite applying to renew certificate of sponsorship allocations as early as January, many sponsors are finding that the requests have not yet been processed. This means that employers cannot sponsor further migrants under the Tier 2 category until the new allocation appears on the sponsor management system.
The UK Border Agency has confirmed an increase in the funds required to satisfy the maintenance requirement. As the funds must be held in a bank or savings account for each day of the 90-day period before the visa application, the agency has delayed the implementation date to allow migrants sufficient time to hold these funds before submitting an application.
The UK Border Agency has confirmed its plans for the start of its new premium service, to be offered to A-rated sponsors. The annual fee for large companies will be £25,000. Benefits include a designated senior person at the UK Border Agency, whom the sponsor can call and meet regularly, and priority access to fast-track slots for same-day processing of visa applications.
At present, individuals who entered the United Kingdom under the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) category and whose employer may wish them to stay long term can leave the country and apply for a visa under the Tier 2 (General) category in order to return in the same position. Such individuals will soon be unable to return in this way until 12 months after their permission to stay in the United Kingdom has expired.
Following the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee's recommendations in 2011, the UK Border Agency has issued a statement of intent that largely follows the recommendations. Among other things, the agency proposes to introduce a Tier 2 minimum salary threshold of £35,000 for settlement or permanent residence applications.
The Migration Advisory Committee has published its recommendations on Tier 2 limits and other issues, including the raising of the Tier 2 skill level to National Qualifications Framework Level 6 or higher. The committee has found that this would exclude 32 occupation codes - including financial and accounting technicians and marketing associate professionals - from the graduate occupation list.