In UK immigration law circles, we have grown used to a statement of changes, announcing significant alteration of the existing laws, at least three times a year. Usually, the end of year change occurs in November but this year the announcement is unsurprisingly later than usual and less eventful. Presumably because the Government have found themselves a little busy the last few months...

Here is a summary of the changes worth noting:

  • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent: it was previously announced and now is being enacted, that the Government are seeking to encourage more applicants under this route by doubling the number of places available. The extra one thousand places will not be designated by sub-category (tech, arts, science, engineering, humanities and medicine) but rather, stay as a pool to be drawn upon as the need arises. This is part of the Chancellor’s Budget plan to promote innovation, research and development.
  • Tier 2 continuous employment: the Government are revoking the requirement for a Tier 2 holder to have continuous employment over the five years residence required for Indefinite Leave to Remain (“ILR”). This should aid those Tier 2 migrants who seek to change employment but are delayed in doing so. Though they should still be aware that their visas should be curtailed to 60 days from their last date of employment, even if the Home Office is frequently very slow to act on this.
  • Absences requirement at ILR extended to dependants: dependent family members of PBS Migrants (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 visa holders) will now have the same residence requirements as their main visa holder when applying for ILR – to spend no more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 month period rolling back from the date of application for ILR. This will only apply to periods of leave granted after 11 January 2018.
  • Tier 4 Students applying for Tier 2 leave: will no longer have to have passed their degree before applying for a Tier 2 visa. It will be enough to have simply completed the degree. This will save significant time for applicants who would otherwise be reliant on university processing times.
  • Moving the start date of Tier 2 General employees: Tier 2 General visa holders will only be able to move their start date back a maximum of 28 days after the start date on their CoS when their visa is issued. Any more than that will result in their visa being curtailed. This is a change from the previous rule which stated no more than four weeks change. This is also ensuring that the rules which was previously only in the Sponsor Guidance, is now incorporated into law.
  • Tier 2 Researchers and nurses: there are some tweaks to the requirements to encourage nurses still in training and researchers in receipt of research awards and fellowships.
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneurs: the whole of the attributes section for Tier 1 Entrepreneurs has been re-written “for clarity”. Given the complexity of the route and its high refusal rate, we would always advise to get in touch with immigration advisors for details. In essence, they have sort to make the rules easier to follow and ensure the funds used are genuinely the visa holder’s funds and fully utilised in the UK business. There are also documentary changes for applications and various other tweaks with limited application.
  • General grounds for refusal: this has been changed to be a little less draconian for visitors and applicants generally. They have sort to clarify that there is not an additional test of whether a non-EU national’s visa application should be refused in favour of “public interest”.
  • Visitors: those seeking to enter the UK for transit only purposes, can now do so whilst using an existing standard visitor visa rather than applying separately for the transit visitor visa.
  • Electronic visas: allowances have been made to the rules, to enable a trial of electronic visas. These will be trialled on a very small number of applicants, probably Tier 4 Students. Rather than receiving an endorsement in their passport and later a Biometric Residence Permit (“BRP”) card, they will have an email confirming their status and this will be registered on the Home Office system.