On 22 November 2012 the UK Border Agency announced changes to the Immigration Rules. The majority of the changes will come into force on 13 December 2012.

The changes will impact upon all migrants in the Points-Based System and those applying for settlement. The key changes that will affect migrants in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 categories and settlement applicants are summarised below. Those in relation to Tier 2 and settlement will be welcomed by businesses and migrants alike:

Tier 1 Entrepreneurs and Investors

  • The English language requirement for entrepreneurs is being lowered  from level C1 (Advanced) to level B1 (Intermediate), in line with the requirement for Tier 2 (General) migrants.
  • The list of acceptable UK government bodies providing a £50,000 investment will be extended to include Departments of Devolved Administrators.
  • The UK Border Agency will operate a list of financial institutions whose verification will not be accepted for the purposes of Tier 1 applications due to lack of credibility.
  • Tier 4 students will no longer be able to switch directly into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category unless they have £50,000 funding from a specified source. Students can continued to switch into the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route introduced in April 2012.
  • Tier 1 (Investor) migrants’ leave can be curtailed if they fail to maintain the required level of investment for the duration of their leave.

Tier 2 Skilled Workers

  • The maximum leave period for Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) for senior staff earning £150,000 per annum or more will be increased from 5 years to 9 years. Migrants remain unable to apply for settlement and subject to a 12 month “cooling off period” at the end of their leave before they can return to the UK.
  • Tier 2 migrants who leave the UK before the expiry of their leave can begin the 12 month “cooling off period” from the earliest date that they can demonstrate they left the UK, rather than the date of expiry or curtailment of their leave. Sponsors still need to report to the UKBA if the migrant leaves their employment earlier than the end date on their Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • Clarification will be provided to confirm that employer pension contributions do not count towards minimum required salary for the purpose of Tier 2 applications.
  • Tier 2 migrants will be permitted to take up supplementary employment provided this is in a shortage occupation, even if this is a  different occupation to the one they are being sponsored to work in.

              Settlement Applicants

  • Clarification will be provided to confirm that Tier 2 migrants, work permit holders and sole representatives of overseas businesses are allowed absences of up to 180 days in each calendar period of 12 months during the qualifying period of 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK. The absence must be for a reason consistent with the applicant’s employment or economic activity, including annual leave, conferences, business trips and research collaborations. Absences for a serious or compelling reason such as the serious illness of a close relative will also be permitted.

The Home Office will be revising its sponsor guidance to include these changes. The revised guidance is expected to be published in December.

Click here for the Statement of Changes and further information from the UK Border Agency website.