On 26 February 2015, The Home Office published its latest statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, with most of the provisions coming into effect from 6 April 2015. Notable changes are as follows:

Visitors

  • There has been a wholesale simplification of the Visitor Rules which will come into effect from 24 April 2015
  • Currently there are 15 separate visitor categories each with their own set of requirements. Following extensive consultation and feedback from interested bodies, the visitor categories have now been streamlined into just four visitor categories: visitor (standard), visitor for marriage or civil partnership, visitor for permitted paid engagements and transit visitor
  • The student visitor category has been subsumed within a new short term study category which takes it outside of the Visitor Rules
  • The “parent of a child at school” category has been rebranded as “parent of a Tier 4 (child) student and again taken outside of the Visitor Rules
  • Under the visitor (standard) category it will now be possible for all visitors to carry out permitted activities which were not originally declared on their visit visa application, although they may be required to provide additional information if requested by immigration officers on entry to the UK
  • The list of Permitted Activities has been expanded to include:
    • Incidental volunteering for up to 30 days at a registered UK charity
    • Employees of an overseas training company delivering global training to employees of a multinational company based in the UK
    • Allowing training in specialist UK work practices and techniques to be delivered by non-corporate organisations
    • Expanding the current provision for overseas lawyers to advise UK clients on litigation and international transactions to include lawyers who are not employed by an overseas multinational company

Other significant changes to the Rules include:

  • Ability for caseworkers to require persons present in the UK with limited leave to provide evidence and/or attend an interview in order to demonstrate that they continue to meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules
  • Approved English language tests will be limited to Trinity College tests and Cambridge IELTS tests. The tests provided by Pearson and City and Guilds will be removed from 6 April 2015

Tier 2

  • There will be scheduled annual updates to minimum salary thresholds to qualify for Tier 2 which are as follows:
    • Tier 2 (General) now £20,800
    • Jobs exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus now £72,500
    • Jobs which are exempt from the annual limit, 12-month cooling-off period, the Resident Labour Market Test and transfers of up to nine years (ICT) now £155,300
    • Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Sports-person) earnings which qualify for settlement: £35,800 for settlement applications made on or after 6 April 2010 and £36,200 for those made after 6 April 2019
    • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Short-Term, Skills Transfer and Graduate Trainee categories now £24,800
    • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Long-Term now £41,500
  • No increase to the annual limit on Tier 2 (General) Restricted certificates which remains at 20,700 but it is being rebalanced to increase the number of places available at the start of the limit year in April from 1,725 to 2,550
  • There will be a change to the cooling-off period restrictions which will not apply for those applicants who were previously granted Tier 2 leave of three months or less. This will help Sponsors who need to transfer key staff for very short periods, rather than to fill on-going vacancies in the UK

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

  • A change is being made to expand the use of the “genuineness” tests in the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route to applications for extensions and indefinite leave to remain. This change is similar to the “genuine entrepreneur” test introduced for initial applications in January 2013. In addition, the submission of business plans for initial applications will now be mandatory
  • A change is being made so that applicants relying on funds they hold themselves must provide evidence of the third party source of those funds, if they have held the funds for less than 90 days before making an initial application
  • Clarifications are being made to the rules regarding how investment funds may be spent, in order to satisfy the £200,000 investment requirement. The changes make it clear that buying a business from a previous owner, where the money ultimately goes to that previous owner, rather than into the business, will not be acceptable.