Introduction
General changes
Skilled worker route
Intra-company transfer routes
Visitors
New extension route for Turkish workers and businesspersons
New immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their family members
Unchanged categories
Expedited sponsor licence processing


Introduction

On 22 October 2020 the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 813 was published. This key document outlines the features of the government's points-based immigration system and simplifies the language and structure of some areas of the Immigration Rules. The new system will apply to EEA and Swiss nationals, aside from Irish nationals (EEA nationals). This article highlights some of the changes that are likely to be of most interest to employers.

HC 813 is 514 pages long but only some of it aims to create new criteria for entry and stay in the United Kingdom.

It will be possible to make applications under the new Immigration Rules from 9:00am on 1 December 2020 in most cases, so guidance on how to do this will likely be published shortly.

EEA nationals will be unable to apply in-country under the Immigration Rules until 11:00pm on 31 December 2020, unless they are applying under the EU Settlement Scheme as an S2 healthcare visitor or a service provider from Switzerland. Those who apply for entry clearance (other than under the same categories) will have this granted from 1 January 2021 at the earliest.

General changes

The general changes include the following:

  • In-country switching will be allowed from most immigration categories other than visitor, short-term student, parent of a child student, seasonal worker, domestic worker or a person with leave outside the Immigration Rules – a notable exception being that it will be impossible to switch to the UK ancestry route.
  • The application validity requirements have been expanded (for further details please see "New Immigration Rules for students give employers insight into what's to come for workers").
  • Appendices for cross-cutting topics have been renamed and restructured, including:
    • the Academic Technology Approval Scheme requirement;
    • English-language requirements for limited stay;
    • the knowledge of language and life requirement for settlement;
    • the financial requirements for limited stay; and
    • the continuous residence requirement for settlement in work and business categories.

Skilled worker route

The skilled worker category will replace Tier 2 (General) and is for individuals coming to the United Kingdom to work in a skilled job with a licensed sponsor (for further details please see "Home Office provides consolidated details of new immigration system").

The statement also confirms that no cooling-off periods will apply to the route and that there will be no six-year total length of stay.

Controversially, no changes have been made to the shortage occupations that will be initially accepted under the skilled worker route, other than the removal of quantity surveyors, which was previously included in error. This means that skilled chefs will still be recognised as a shortage occupation initially, despite the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommending their removal. Moreover, all of the other occupations recommended for inclusion will not be reflected when the route launches (for further details please see "MAC publishes report recommending expanded shortage occupation lists").

The reason given by the Home Office for taking this approach is that it wishes to assess how the labour market develops following the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to the introduction of the new system. However, it seems more likely that there has simply been insufficient time to properly consider and implement the recommendations in the MAC's report. There will likely be calls for the shortage occupation list to be revised swiftly to limit the negative impact that delay may have on resourcing, particularly in the health and social care sector.

Intra-company transfer routes

The main intra-company transfer provisions for established workers being transferred from their employer abroad to work at a related business in the United Kingdom, and for graduate trainees, are both preserved.

Substantive changes include the following:

  • The 12-month cooling-off requirement will be amended so that it will apply only to those who have already held leave under the route for:
    • five years in any six-year rolling period; or
    • nine years in any 10-year rolling period for high earners with a high earner salary of at least £73,900.
  • There will be only one high earner salary of £73,900 for this route, which will enable the individual to access the cooling-off provision mentioned above and will exempt them from having to be employed abroad for at least 12 months before their application to transfer to the United Kingdom.
  • The switching requirements have been relaxed. However, applicants must still have the relevant 12 months' experience abroad (or three months for graduate trainees) unless they are a high earner.

The intra-company transfer routes will be subject to a review by the MAC in 2021, with the MAC's report due by the end of October 2021. Therefore, further reform of these routes is expected at the end of 2021 or early in 2022.(1)

Visitors

The Immigration Rules for visitors will be simplified. The changes to the route are modest and it remains to be seen whether the route will be further reformed in the medium term to better facilitate business travel following the end of the transition period.

Changes include the following:

  • allowing standard visitors to study at an accredited institution for up to six months;
  • making a correction to state that drivers on international routes may collect and deliver goods and passengers;
  • removing the requirement for volunteering to be 'incidental' to the main purpose of the visit; and
  • allowing academic visitors who are experts in their field to extend their stay in the United Kingdom to a total of 12 months.

New extension route for Turkish workers and businesspersons

This route will become available from 11:00pm on 31 December 2020 under a new Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay. The appendix aims to enable Turkish workers, businesspersons and their existing family members to proceed to settlement on broadly the same criteria as at present, with the exception that domestic criminality thresholds will apply for considering conduct taking place after the end of the transition period.

New immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their family members

The new route will launch from 31 January 2021. New fee regulations also published on 22 October 2020 confirm that the application fee for each main applicant and dependant will be £180 for a 30-month visa and £250 for a five-year visa.

Unchanged categories

Categories that have been simplified but are not intended to contain changes to immigration policy include:

  • Tier 2 Minister of Religion;
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson;
  • UK ancestry;
  • the Tier 5 Temporary Worker routes for seasonal workers, youth mobility, religious workers, charity workers, creative and sporting workers and those coming to work in the United Kingdom under international agreements or government-authorised exchange schemes;
  • Start-up; and
  • Innovator.

Expedited sponsor licence processing

In a separate announcement, the Home Office has confirmed that it will be introducing a new £500 fee from 12 November 2020 for the priority processing of sponsor licence applications.

For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne, Naomi Hanrahan-Soar, Joanna Hunt or Stephen O'Flaherty at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000‚Äč) or email ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or stephen.o'[email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.

Endnotes

(1) For further information please see "Migration Advisory Committee commissioned to report on Intra-Company Transfers".