Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, laid a statement of changes before Parliament on 14 March outlining changes to certain visa routes under the points based system. The main changes, which will come into effect on 6 April 2013, are summarised below:

  • the Tier 1 (graduate entrepreneur) route, which was introduced in 2012, is being expanded to include additional places for MBA graduates from UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). In addition, it will allow individuals from UK Trade and Investment’s elite global graduate scheme to apply, with the aim of attracting the most talented entrepreneurs from overseas HEIs;
  • the Tier 1 (exceptional talent) route which was introduced to attract world leaders in the arts, science and engineering, will no longer have to pay the full fee up front or have their passports held by the UKBA while a decision is made on whether a designated competent body will be able to endorse them;
  • Tier 2 of the points based system, which allows skilled migrants with a job offer from a UKBA approved company, will become more flexible. Changes include updating the shortage occupation list, the code of practice for employers, salary thresholds and the minimum salary rates for individual occupations. The need to lay further rules regarding the Tier 2 (general) limit will be removed, meaning that the limit will continue to be set at 20,700 places each year, unless further rules are laid to change this;
  • regarding Tier 4 of the points based system, all completing PhD students will now be able to remain in the UK for 12 months after the completion of their course to either find employment as a skilled worker or set up their own business;
  • provisions for individuals, arriving in the UK as temporary workers under Tier 5 of the points based system, are being upheld where certain international trade agreements to which the UK is a party exist;
  • changes will be made to general visitor rules in order to protect against abuse by those individuals whose repeat visits amount to de facto residence;
  • feedback from the UKBA and legal experts relating to rules on family and private life has led to minor changes being made in these areas; and
  • a new protection route will be introduced to recognise stateless persons.

To read the full details of the changes, please click here.