Immigration Update - March 2016

Published: 22/03/2016

Spring tends to bring a number of changes into the Immigration arena and this year is no exception. The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules which will come into effect on 6th April 2016 can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/507235/54729_HC_877_Web_Accessible.pdf

We have provided below a brief summary of these changes most likely to affect migrants in Tiers 1 and 2.

Tier 2 Visas

  • Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship
    The Government has decided not to increase the 20,700 annual allocation of available restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) for the year ending April 2017, but they have decided to stagger the availability of Tier 2 CoS throughout the year, instead of split equally in twelve monthly allocations. Starting April 6, 2016, 2,200 CoS will be available in the first month, gradually falling to 1,000 by March 2017. The Home Office believe that this will assist in the seasonal demand for places which is historically higher in the summer months.

  • Tier 2 Salaries
    Unlike in other years, the Government will not be increasing the salary requirements for this visa category in April. These will instead be reviewed later this year as part of the government’s response to recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report this January.

  • Salary Threshold for Tier 2 Indefinite Leave to Remain
    As we have indicated in previous updates, anyone applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK as a Tier 2 migrant after 6 April 2016 will need to earn a minimum salary of £35,000 per year (unless in a shortage occupation or a PhD role). Anyone not earning that figure at the end of the five year qualifying period can apply to extend their visa for a further 12 months (to a maximum of six years in this category). If they are still not earning the required sum, and they have no other immigration category to switch into, they will need to leave the UK for a minimum period of 12 months before they will be eligible to apply to return as a Tier 2 migrant.

    The £35,000 salary is only required at permanent residence stage and does not affect applications to extend Tier 2 visas. It is however an ever moving target, depending on the point at which ILR is applied for; £35,000 from 6 April 2016, £35,500 from 6 April 2018, £35,800 from 6 April 2019 and £36,200 from 6 April 2020.

  • Points Based Calculator
    Many Tier 2 and Tier 1 applicants have traditionally used the points based calculator to ensure that the Home Office recognise that a degree awarded to the candidate meets UKVI’s requirements for a degree taught in English. From 6 April 2016, the calculator tool will be taken down. Instead, applicants will now need to obtain an official statement from UK NARIC: www.naric.org.uk/visasandnationality.
Tier 1 Visas

The new immigration rules have sought to simplify and clarify some of the documentation required for Tier 1 visas with the amount of documentation required for entrepreneur applicants to be reduced for those applying using funds which are provided by a trusted source, e.g. UK Seed Funding Competitions or UK government departments.

However other applicants can expect to be required to provide more documentation when applying for, or extending, this type of visa. This will also be the case for any application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) made under the Tier 1 category. The endorsements necessary to becoming eligible to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa are being slightly altered by Tech City UK.

It is worth noting that these rule changes do not include any reforms resulting from the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recent reviews of Tier 1 or Tier 2. The Government has not yet announced its response to those reports, and we will bring you further news as we have it.

Other changes

  • Increase in Application fees
    Increases in UKVI fees will take effect from 18 March 2016. The new, higher fees will particularly hit personal, family immigration categories with the costs for Sponsor Licence Applications and Certificate of Sponsorship fees remaining static and only modest increase for Tier 2 application fees.

  • Health Surcharge
    Australian and New Zealand nationals who were previously exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge will, from 6 April, have to pay the charge when applying to enter the UK for a period of more than six months or for any application made in the UK.

  • Concessions for Syrian Nationals
    On 29 February 2016, UKVI published certain concessions to the Immigration Rules for Syrian nationals who are present within the UK, whose country of habitual residence is Syria and have limited leave to enter or remain (or has expired within 28 days). These allow applicants in certain categories of the rules to apply to remain in the UK beyond the maximum time stated under the Immigration Rules. The categories include Tier 4 General, Family Members of Relevant Points-Based System migrants, Visitors, Overseas Domestic Workers and Short term students.
The concessions also allows certain Syrian nationals to switch in-country to another category of visa (from the one that they currently hold), provided they meet the rules of the other category. Switching into a settlement category however, is not permitted. Under the concessions the switching restrictions do not apply to the following categories: Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Tier 1 Investor, Tier 2 General, Tier 2 Minister of Religion, Tier 2 Sportsperson, Tier 4 General (Student) and Tier 5 Temporary Worker.

The concession also provides for document flexibility in recognition of the civil unrest in Syria where applicants may not be able to provide the full range of documents required for an in-country application.

Brexit

With the EU referendum in sight, this month we focus on EU migrants currently living in the UK and the effect it may have on them, and their employers, in the event of Brexit.

There are currently around 2.34m EU migrants living in the UK. There has been no public announcement about what would happen to these individuals in the event of Brexit, but there are a few options for those who wish to consider protecting their position here before the swamp of applications which would surely arise in the event of a break.

  1. Apply for permanent residence. If an EU national has been living in the UK for at least five years, they may be eligible to apply for a ‘permanent right to reside’ as an EEA (European Economic Area) National. They must be able to show that they have been ‘exercising Treaty rights’ throughout the five year period by working, looking for work, being self employed, studying etc.

  2. Apply for British Citizenship. Once an EU national has held permanent residence for a period of 12 months, they can apply for British Citizenship. Most European countries allow dual citizenship, although the following countries do not; Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, and Slovakia.

  3. Apply for Registration Cards as recognition of your right of residence. This would apply to EU nationals who have not lived in the UK for five years and would not therefore qualify for permanent residence to nonetheless demonstrate that they are resident in the UK.
In the past where immigration rules have rapidly changed there have been transitional provisions for those most immediately affected. We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further news in the next updates.

For more information on any of the matters covered in this update, please contact Clare Hedges or Janice Leggett in our immigration team.

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