Mark Harper, the Minister of State for Immigration, has released a written ministerial statement outlining a number of changes to the Immigration Rules which will come into effect on 1 October 2013.

The changes are aimed at increasing flexibility in immigration options for businesses and workers and include:

  • removing the English language requirement for intra-company transferees under Tier 2;
  • making it easier for graduate entrepreneurs to switch into the Tier 2 visa category;
  • waiving share ownership restrictions for some senior staff; and
  • allowing some students to work as interns under the Tier 5 government authorised exchange scheme.

Importantly, there are also plans to expand the activities that a business visitor is permitted to undertake whilst in the UK; though specific details of the newly created permissible activities are yet to be announced. This could be a real boost to business, both in the UK and overseas, as the limitations of the business visitor category (discussed here) currently make this visa option cumbersome and unattractive.

Further noteworthy changes include:

  • expanding Home Office checks to ensure that applicants for work and student visas are genuine, and that they intend to meet the conditions of leave that they apply for; and
  • setting new youth mobility scheme quotas for 2014 and adding Hong Kong to the list of participating countries in the YMS.

In addition, there will be changes to the way applicants for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) are required to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK from 28 October 2013.