On 3 November 2016, the Home Office published a raft of changes to the Immigration Rules.

We have provided a summary of the key changes below. 

Tier 2 visa

Changes to the skilled worker route have been made following recommendations made previously by the Migration Advisory Committee.

They apply to all Certificates of Sponsorship assigned on or after 24 November 2016:

  1. Increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000, with some exemptions.
  2. Increasing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short-term staff to £30,000.
  3. Reducing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000 and increasing the number of places to 20 per company per year.
  4. Closing the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category.

Note there is yet to be an announcement on the date from which Intra Company Transfers will be liable for the Health Surcharge.

English Language Requirement for ‘Families of Settled Person’ visa

The English Language requirement for non-EEA partners and parents has been raised to A2.

The change affects applicants on a 5-year route to settlement under Appendix FM (Family Members) to the Immigration Rules, who are seeking to extend their stay in the UK after 2.5 years.

Partners and parents whose current leave under the family Immigration Rules is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017 are affected. Home Office expectation is that applicants use the 6 months to May to improve their English language skills sufficiently to meet the new A2 standard.

To meet the A2 requirement, applicants must either:

  • pass a speaking and listening test at level A2 or above provided by one of the approved test providers (Trinity College London or IELTS SELT Consortium); or
  • be a national of a majority English-speaking country or the holder of a degree taught or researched in English.

According to the Home Office, the change is intended to help families better integrate into the community through improved communication skills. It also supports progression towards the higher B1 level English language required for settlement.

The A2 test costs £150 per applicant.

Stated exemptions to the A2 requirement include:

  • Those aged 65 or over at the date of application.
  • Those with a disability preventing them from meeting the requirement.
  • In exceptional circumstances where applicants are prevented from meeting the requirement.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa

A number of technical changes are being made to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) application process, including:

  • Applicants supplying third party evidence do not need to meet the requirement for their bank statements to cover a consecutive 90-day period of time.
  • Applicants who are also accountants cannot sign-off their own accounts or funding evidence.
  • Applicants with funding from an endorsed Seed Funding Competition can provide a letter from an authorised official of the fund as confirmation that money is being made available for investment (rather than a letter from an accountant as at present).
  • Clarification of the company’s register of members must come from Companies House.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa

Changes are being made to the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa application, including:

  • Updated list of acceptable awards within the film, television, animation, post- production and visual effects industry, for endorsement under the Arts Council England criteria.
  • The limit of 1,000 Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) places includes applicants who successfully apply under the equivalent Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route in the Isle of Man.
  • Evidence originating from the Isle of Man will be acceptable for the purposes of obtaining an endorsement from a Designated Competent Body under these Rules.

Additional Tier 2 (General) changes

From April 2017, a sponsor will no longer be able to offer a job to a migrant 4 years after carrying out a ‘milkround’, without the need for a further recruitment search. Sponsors will be able to continue to rely on a milkround which ended up to 4 years prior to assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship, but only providing the migrant was offered the job within 6 months of that milkround taking place.

Following the MAC review on nursing shortages, nurses are being retained on the Shortage Occupation List. However a change is being made to require a Resident Labour Market Test to have been carried out before a nurse is assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Applicants will no longer be able to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 where they are relying on a qualification obtained via supplementary study. An applicant switching from Tier 4 must have studied their course at a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution.

Minor changes have also been made to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa and Tier 5 maintenance funds.

Full details of the published changes can be found on the Home Office website.