In the wake of last week’s report that net migration for 2014 was the highest it has been for a decade, we take a brief look at recent changes to Immigration Rules and some of the changes that may be planned for the future.
The Rules are not legislation but statements of practice which may be changed by the Home Office at short notice and can be imposed with immediate effect. The most recent changes to the Immigration Rules were published on 26 February 2015, with the majority of the changes coming into effect on 6 April 2015. Changes include:
- An increase to the license fees to sponsor migrants in the UK. For small companies (less than 50 people or turnover less than £6.5million) the fee is now £536. For larger companies, the fee is now £1,476.
- Update to the Standard Occupation Classifications and Shortage Occupation Lists – these contain job roles which are difficult to recruit to in the UK. Changes as of 6 April 2015 include removing neonatal nurses from the Shortage Occupation List but adding paramedics and overhead lines workers (in the energy industry).
- Annual update to the minimum salary rates for individual Shortage Occupations and the annual minimum salary thresholds for Tier 2 applicants.
- There are various changes to Tier 1 applications (covering entrepreneurs, investors and highly skilled individuals) from 6 April 2015. Tier 1 (General) category, for highly skilled migrants, is now closed to all new and renewal applications. However, applications for settlement for existing Tier 1 (General) migrants still can be made until 5 April 2018. A “genuineness test” has been introduced for Tier 1 (Entrepreneurs) and applicants must now show they genuinely intend to invest in and operate their business in the UK. From February 2015, Tier 1 (Investor) applicants must have opened a UK regulated investment account before their initial application to live in the UK will be considered.
- Usually, Tier 2 applicants who have returned home are required to wait for 12 months before they can reapply for a UK visa. The updated Immigration Rules now allow this cooling off period to be waived, provided the initial time spent in the UK was three months or less. This will help those employers who sponsor interns to bring them back to the UK for permanent jobs and will also help international businesses who want to send employees based abroad to their UK office for short periods each year.
- From 24 April 2015, the permitted categories of Business Visitors have been simplified and reduced from 15 to 4 possible options (standard visitor, visitor for permitted paid engagements, transit visitor and visitor for marriage/civil partnerships). Once in the UK, the rules will now allow business visitors to carry out a wider range of activities, without having to apply for separate visa’s for each different activity.
- The minimum salary for unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship (“CoS”) has been updated. CoS are applied for by the prospective employer once they have received their licence and are like virtual certificates. They contain a unique reference number which is used to authenticate an individual’s visa application. There are two types of CoS: restricted and unrestricted. As suggested by the name “restricted” certificates are limited – only a set number are available per month whereas a company can apply for an unlimited number of unrestricted CoS, provided the migrants they intend to sponsor fulfils the relevant criteria. From 6 April 2015, the minimum annual salary for someone applying for an unrestricted certificate has increased to £155,300.
- From 2 March 2015, challenges to immigration decisions will take the form of an Administrative Review, assessed by an immigration official, who will only assess the application for case working errors. Appeals to the Tribunal will be still available for Human Rights related issues.
Due in the near future are:
- Changes to Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) are likely as a result of the upcoming Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report on the economic impact and levels of abuse in this category. The consultation closes on 12 June 2015.
- There is likely to be more competition for restricted certificates of sponsorship. Until 2014, there was only 50%-60% uptake of each monthly allocation. However, this year there has been a 92% uptake, and this is predicted to increase. The Government have said it will be keeping the number of restricted certificates available the same – 20,700 per year. However, from April 2015 any unused allocation from a previous month will roll forwards and can be used in the next month.
- Proposals by the Government to make the wages of illegal working confiscatable as the proceeds of crime.
- Proposals by the Government to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a British Bill of Rights – although whether they manage to do this and the results remain to be seen.
- Further welfare rule reforms to discourage migration from the EU are also likely.
To discuss this matter further please contact Jessica Clough on 0118 952 7184 or email [email protected].
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.