As part of its on-going programme of reforms to the UK immigration system, the Government has announced changes to the Immigration Rules that will affect all Tiers of the Points Based System. The key changes are as follows:

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) 9 year limit – The maximum stay in the UK for senior intra-company transferees earning £150,000 or above will increase from 5 years to 9 years. As before, the category does not lead to settlement, the ‘cooling off’ period will still apply and the rules remain unchanged for Intra-Company Transferees earning less than £150,000 a year.

Tier 2 ‘Cooling off’ periods – Where it is clear that a Tier 2 applicant has left the UK before the expiry of his previous Tier 2 leave, the cooling off period will start from the earliest date he can demonstrate he left and remained outside the UK prior to the expiry of his previous leave rather than the expiry of that leave or curtailment by the UK Border Agency (if earlier). The actual cooling-off period remains at 12 months.

Important: Sponsors will still need to make a report via the Sponsor Management System if a migrant leaves their employment earlier than the end date specified on his Certificate of Sponsorship, as at present.

Tier 2 and Tier 5 Supplementary employment – Migrants sponsored under Tier 2 and Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) may take up supplementary employment (for a different employer) of up to 20 hours a week in addition to the employment they are being sponsored for, providing it is in the same occupation and at the same professional level. This provision will be extended so that migrants can also take up supplementary employment in a shortage occupation, even if this is in a different occupation to the one they are being sponsored to work in.

Settlement under Tier 2 and other work routes – Where the reasons for overseas travel are due to the nature of the applicant’s work (e.g. business trips, annual leave, etc.) or due to a serious or compelling compassionate reason, absences from the UK of up to 180 days per year will be permitted, as long as he can still show that the relevant residence requirement is met.

Tier 1 Entrepreneurs – The level of the English language requirement will be lowered from level C1 (advanced) to level B1 (intermediate). This brings the level in line with other Points-Based System categories.

Tier 1 Investors – A Tier 1 (Investor) migrant’s leave will be curtailed (shortened) if he fails to maintain the required level of investment for the duration of his leave.

Criminality – A tougher criminality framework will be established against which immigration applications will be assessed. Some of the changes include a re-entry ban of five years for any offender who leaves the UK as a requirement of a conditional caution, and a discretionary power to curtail leave where a person commits an offence within the first six months of entering the UK. The aim of this discretionary power is also to enable the Secretary of State to act where it is clear from the person’s actions that he does not intend to remain in the UK in line with the reason for which his visa was issued.

The majority of the changes will come in to force on 13 December 2012.