Somewhat surprisingly, it appears that not all civil servants have been caught up on Brexit related matters. On 7 December 2017, the Government found time to announce the following key changes to the UK's domestic Immigration Rules, which will take effect from 11 January 2018:

Tier 2 (General)

  • Tier 4 (General) students switching into the Tier 2 (General) category will be able to apply as soon as they have completed their courses, rather than waiting to receive their final results. This will be particularly useful for Master's degree students who can often wait months before receiving their final results.
  • Clarification that an applicant's Tier 2 (General) employment start date cannot be put back by more than 28 days after leave has been granted, or by more than 28 days after the start date on the Certificate of Sponsorship, whichever is the later.

Family members of Points Based System (PBS) migrants

  • An important change relates to dependent Partners (spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners) of those in the UK under the PBS, including Tier 1 and Tier 2. The requirement to have absences from the UK of no more than 180 days per year to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is being extended from the main applicant to also include Partners of PBS migrants. This change will apply to Partners who are granted new periods of leave after 11 January 2018. In other words, even those Partners who have already been granted leave and are in the UK pre 11 January 2018 will be subject to the new rules after any grant/extension of leave post 11 January 2018. So any absences they have had before that post 11 January 2018 grant of leave will not be subject to the new rule, but absences after that grant will be.
  • Dependent family members submitting an application after 11 January 2018 will have to prove that their relationship to the main applicant is not only subsisting but also 'genuine'. These requirements are being bought into line with those for family members applying under other immigration categories.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

  • The number of available places will double from 1,000 to 2,000 per year.
  • 'World leaders' in their field may be able to qualify for accelerated ILR after 3 years, rather than 5 years.

Electronic Entry Clearance

  • Aside from the 11 January 2018 rule changes, the Government will trial a scheme to grant entry clearance, i.e. visas obtained from outside the UK, in an electronic form as opposed to the traditional passport stamp. On entry to the UK, the entry clearance holder will simply present their passport to the Immigration Officer, who will check their immigration status electronically. As is now the case, once in the UK the Biometric Residence Permit can be collected. Once this change has been fully rolled out, it will likely no longer be possible for employers to conduct a 'right to work' check prior to the employee being in possession of their BRP.