The Home Office has set out numerous changes to UK immigration rules which took effect from 11 January 2018. Below we highlight some of the changes that businesses should be aware of.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur

The rules and requirements for entrepreneur applications have not changed. However, the new guidance clarifies and expands on the previous wording.

New wording seeks to stop ‘recycling’ of funds, meaning that applicants cannot base their application on funds already ‘used’ by another applicant, or family members.

Additional detail is also provided on documentary evidence, and the rules concerning creation of jobs for settled workers have been clarified.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

As set out in the Autumn Budget 2017, the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas allocated annually is being doubled to 2,000.

The additional 1,000 visas will be held separately, in an unallocated pool, drawn on a first-come, first-served basis.

The changes to this category form part of the Home Office’s ongoing commitment to welcome talented people from across the globe. These changes will ensure that more highly skilled people who enhance the UK’s economy can come to, and work in, the UK. It is, according to the Home Office “a further demonstration of the government’s dedication to the global mobility of individuals who will help make sure that the UK remains at the forefront of these world-leading industries”.

Exceptional talent visa holders (not exceptional promise visa holders) are also now permitted to qualify for settlement after three years, rather than five.

The Exceptional Talent category could potentially offer another immigration option for very highly-skilled migrants working in specific industries and recognised as leaders in their fields.

This category has specific requirements which must be met in order to be successful. If you would like further information or assistance in this regard, please contact us directly.

Resident Labour Market test: new exemptions

Higher Education institutions have welcomed the new exemptions to the Resident Labour Market test in respect of researcher and reader posts.

Posts that will be held by sponsored research team members or researchers in receipt of supernumerary research awards and fellowships are no longer subject to the Resident Labour Market Test

Indefinite leave to remain for Tier 2 visa holders

Prior to the rule change, a 60 day ‘gap’ between roles prevented Tier 2 holders from meeting the five-year residence requirement, and therefore being able to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Under the new rules, Tier 2 visa holders who have more than 60 days between Tier 2 employments are no longer excluded from applying for ILR when they reach the qualifying mark of five-continuous years employment in the UK.

Tier 4 switching to Tier 2

Tier 4 visa holders on non-PhD courses can now apply to switch to Tier 2 when they finish their course; they will no longer have to wait until they have received their final results.

Additional information will be required in order to evidence this.

Points-Based System visa dependants

PBS migrants applying for ILR are not permitted to be out of the country for more than 180 days in any 12 months during the qualifying period. Dependants of PBS migrants, however, have in the past not been subject to this rule.

The new changes now bring dependents under the 180 day requirement, and will apply to all ILR applications made after 11 January 2018.

Visitors

From 11 January 2018, visitors who hold a standard or marriage/civil partnership visit visa will be allowed to transit through the UK without the need to obtain a separate transit visa.

The Home Office has also clarified that visitors are not permitted to study at an academy or a school maintained by a Local Authority.

Electronic entry clearance

A new electronic entry clearance system is being rolled out from 2018. Individuals with electronic clearance will only have to present their passport or identity documents at the UK border for the Immigration Officer to check electronically for entry clearance. Electronic entry clearance will be trialled initially with a pilot group, ahead of wider implementation.

Most of these changes have been welcomed and are evidence of the Home Office commitment to attracting highly skilled individuals to the UK and clarifying current routes into the UK. Overall these changes are not “revolutionary”; nevertheless, it is important to ensure that as a business sponsoring or hiring overseas workers that you remain up to date with these changes and how they could impact any individuals.