The UK Home Office has recently announced a number of changes which will take effect from 6 April 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval:

Fee Increases

The majority of UK government fees for visa applications will be increased by 4 percent. Tier 2 government fees for professions recognised by the Home Office as Shortage Occupations will however be reduced to attract more migrants in these professions.

An important fee increase to note is that the government fee for dependant family member applications made inside the UK will be increased substantially to match the fee of the main applicant. By way of example, an application for leave to remain in the UK for up to three years as the dependant family member of a Tier 2 migrant will increase by 38.5 percent from £434 to £601.

This is in line with changes previously implemented for applications submitted outside of the UK for entry clearance visas where main applicant and family members are now charged an equal government fee.

Five-Year Tier 2 Visas

The Home Office is proposing an amendment to the Immigration Rules that will allow Tier 2 applications to be made inside and outside of the UK for periods of greater than three years. It will be possible to apply for grants of up to five years, depending upon the total number of years permitted under that Tier 2 category.

A premium will be charged for the convenience of applying for this much leave in one application — for a five-year Tier 2 application the government fee will be 20 percent higher per year than when making a three-year Tier 2 application.

Registered Traveller Scheme

From 6 April 2014, the Registered Traveller Scheme service will be opened for a yearly subscription of £50 and £20 for registration of documents. Following successful registration on the scheme, a non-EEA national will be able to use the expedited UK/EEA channels at border control of participating ports when entering the UK.

A free pilot of this scheme has been running for several months at Gatwick and Heathrow Airports but has been open only to those who were enrolled previously on the discontinued IRIS scheme and hold a passport issued by a low-risk country.

It is expected that, in its initial rollout, the paid for scheme will be available to nationals of the low-risk countries that could participate in the pilot scheme — Australian, Canadian, Japanese, New Zealand or U.S. e-passport holders who have visited the UK at least four times in the 12 months preceding registration.

The Registered Traveller Scheme will be available only to visitors — non-EEA nationals holding visas permitting employment in the UK will continue to be subject to standard non-expedited entry to the UK.