Employment and Immigration Law Update - Changes to Immigration Rules

25 September 2019

Just before Parliament was prorogued, the Government laid wide-ranging changes to the Immigration Rules. We are pleased to confirm that many of the changes anticipated in our previous briefings have now been confirmed. 

Tier 2

From 6 October 2019, the shortage occupation list will be expanded in line with the Migration Advisory Committee’s May 2019 review. It will include jobs in the digital technology sector which previously had strict conditions applied, as well as jobs in professions such as biological scientists, architects and veterinarians. It is estimated that 1 in 10 jobs are now on the Shortage Occupation list. This is a huge benefit to employers who do not need to carry out the onerous Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) for workers on the list. Shortage occupations are given priority when applying for restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS). In addition at the Indefinite Leave to remain (ILR) stage, workers are exempt from the minimum salary requirement as long as they are earning the minimum rate for their occupation type.

There is good news for the hospitality industry. The restriction that meant restaurants who offer a take-away service were unable to sponsor skilled chefs has been removed. Other criteria continue to apply.

From 6 October 2019, PhD level occupations will be exempt from the annual limit on skilled workers from outside the EU. This will help speed up applications, as they will no longer need to go through the monthly RCoS application process.

Tier 2 migrants in PhD level occupations will also be allowed greater flexibility on absences from the UK for research that is directly related to their Tier 2 employment. This will not be counted as an absence for the purpose of an application for ILR. The same applies to their partners and dependants who accompany them in these circumstances.

Where salary has been affected by sickness, statutory parental leave, assisting with a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis or engaging in strike actions, all Tier 2 General applicants will still be able to apply for ILR even if such absences have caused their salary to fall below the required threshold.

From 6 October 2019, jobs can be advertised on the gov.uk website under ‘Teaching Vacancies’ for the purpose of completing a compliant RLMT.

Tier 4 Students studying at degree level or above will be able to switch into Tier 2 within three months of the expected end date of their course.

We welcome these changes in Tier 2 which we believe will have a positive impact on employers across a variety of sectors.

Tier 5

Tier 5 has had a few minor changes, the most significant of which is to remove the requirement for South Korean nationals applying under the Youth Mobility Scheme to apply for sponsorship from their government before applying for the visa.

Tier 1 Start Up and Innovator

The new Start Up and Innovator visas which have had little interest with only a handful of applications made and approved, have nonetheless required changes in the new rules to confirm that students in the UK on the doctorate extension scheme can use a business that they have established during that leave in an application as a start-up business. Tier 4 General Students who have been supported by an endorsing body can also start their business activities while their application for a start-up application is pending.

Tier 1 Investor

There have been minor changes to Tier 1, the most significant of which is to clarify the investment requirement for Tier 1 Investor visas. The option to use UK Government bonds was removed as a qualifying investment in March 2019. However transitional arrangements meant that Investors who already had their visa  could continue to hold bonds.

The new rules make provision for those already on the route prior to March 2019 to extend or settle in the UK providing they move their qualifying investments out of UK Government bonds before 6 April 2023 for extension applications, and by 6 April 2025 for ILR applications. Our recommendation is to discuss your investments with a financial advisor sooner rather than later to ensure your investment continues to qualify.

English language testing

From 1 October 2019 Appendix O (English language) is to be removed and details of acceptable English language tests will instead be held on the main gov.uk page.

Furthermore a sensible change is being made so that a Tier 2 sponsored doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife whose English language was assessed by their regulated professional body will no longer have to pass additional English tests. This should help to streamline the application process for them.

The Immigration Rules do change on a regular basis and the content of this article is for general information only. For up to date advice on the latest Rules, please contact contact Clare Hedges or another member of Birketts' Immigration Team.

This article is from the September 2019 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. Law covered as at September 2019.