Employment Law Update - Changes to the Immigration Rules

18 December 2018

A statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was published on 11 December 2018, with most of the changes coming into effect on 10 January 2019. 

Some of the main changes include:

Tier 5 (Religious Workers) and Tier 5 (Charity Workers)

A twelve month ‘cooling off’ period is being introduced for Tier 5 Religious Workers and Charity Workers. This means that migrants who have previously held one of these visas will need to spend a minimum of twelve months outside the UK before returning in either category. According to the Home Office, this will prevent migrants from “applying for consecutive visas, thereby using the routes to live in the UK for extended periods.”

Tier 5 Religious Workers will no longer be able to do ‘preaching and pastoral work’ or take the role of ‘minister of religion’. This change will prevent migrants from using the Tier 5 Religious Worker route to fill positions as ministers of religion, and instead they will need to be sponsored as Tier 2 (Ministers of Religion) migrants. 

Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child)

The rules have been amended to clarify that Tier 4 applicants who rely on student loans or funds from official financial sponsors are not required to demonstrate that the funds have been held for a period of 28 consecutive days.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa is being widened further to include those in the field of architecture. The applicants will be assessed by the Royal Institute for British Architects operating within the endorsement remit of Arts Council England.
Additionally, the grants of entry clearance in this visa category have been amended to include an additional four months, meaning that a migrant requesting one year entry clearance, for example, will be granted one year and four months. 

Professional sportsperson

The definition of ‘professional sportsperson’ has been amended. This is important because most types of visas prohibit working as a professional sportsperson. This is designed to ensure that sportspersons can only get a visa for the UK if they meet the tough criteria required under the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) category.

The list of factors is much wider than most people would expect. The new definition is “someone, whether paid or unpaid, who:

  • is currently providing services as a sportsperson, playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport
  • is currently receiving payment, including payment in kind, for playing or coaching that is covering all, or the majority of, their costs for travelling to, and living in the UK, or who has done so within the previous four years
  • is currently registered to a professional or semi-professional sports team, or who has been so registered within the previous four years. This includes all academy and development team age groups
  • has represented their nation or national team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards
  • has represented their represented their state or regional team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards
  • has an established international reputation in their chosen field of sport
  • engages an agent or representative, with the aim of finding opportunities as a sportsperson, and/or developing a current or future career as a sportsperson, or has engaged such an agent in the last 12 months; and/or
  • is providing services as a sportsperson or coach at any level of sport, Unless they are doing so as an ‘amateur’ in a charity event.”


A new code of practice has been introduced regarding models in the fashion industry.

Introduction of the new seasonal workers scheme

As reported in our September 2018 update, the new seasonal agricultural workers pilot scheme will enable fruit and vegetable farmers to employ non-EU migrant workers for seasonal work for up to six months. This small-scale pilot will test the effectiveness of the UK’s immigration system in alleviating seasonal labour shortages during peak production periods.

The scheme will be open to applicants over 18 years old. Successful applicants will be granted leave as a Tier 5 Seasonal Worker, starting 14 days before the beginning of the period of engagement and ending 14 days after that period. It will not be available for longer than six months in any twelve month period and the migrant will not be allowed to undertake any other work than the work they are sponsored to do.

The formal date of implementation for this pilot will be announced in due course.

For further information please contact Clare Hedges or Janice Leggett in our Immigration Team.

This article is from the December 2018 issue of Employment Law Update, our monthly newsletter on employment legislation and regulation. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. Law covered as at December 2018.

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