Immigration into the UK continues to be a hot topic, with the Government wanting to reduce net immigration and ensure immigration that does happen is 'good immigration, not mass immigration'.
To achieve this, the Home Office has made a number of changes to the Immigration Rules.
They began to take effect on 1 October 2013; and from 1 January 2014 in relation to adding Hong Kong to Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme).
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) - migrants are required to have investment and maintenance funds. The updated rules clarify that the same funds cannot count towards both criteria. Further, investment funds can be available to the applicant's business rather than the applicant themselves, as long as there is evidence to link the applicant to the business.
- Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) - has been amended to allow the Arts Council to endorse applicants which it believes have 'exceptional promise', rather than requiring 'demonstrable' exceptional talent.
- Tier 1 (General) - migrants are now subject to a genuine earnings test in relation to extension applications. The caseworker will be able to look into the business sponsoring the migrant as well as checking any requirements of the migrant's employment such as accreditation or insurance, and the migrant's prior immigration history.
Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)
- Migrants in this category who wish to extend their stay beyond the initial three years will not be required to provide evidence of their English language skills. Previously, the exemption to the English language requirement only applied to Tier 2 (ICT) migrants who earned at least £152,100 per annum.
- Tier 2 (ICT) migrants who own more than 10% of the sponsor's business are now able to enter the UK under Tier 2 (ICT) if they earn at least £152,100.
- Sponsored Tier 4 (General) migrants, who have completed a course of study will be able to switch into Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) to complete an internship lasting up to 12 months and which relates to their qualification.
- From 1 January 2014, Hong Kong will be added to the list of participating countries on the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme).
- Migrants will be able to change their immigration status to a 'Points Based System dependant' whilst remaining in the UK. However, a migrant already in the UK as a Points Based System dependant will not be able to apply to be a main applicant from within the UK (i.e. they will have to leave the UK to make their application).
- This route, which allows entry for six months (or 12 months for academic visitors), has been relaxed, allowing business visitors to:
- undertake training provided by an external company
- undertake English language or recreational study for up to 30 days on the condition that it is not the primary purpose of their visit
- Companies can now bring their employees into the country to complete internal audits.
Whilst overshadowed by the recent announcement of the Immigration Bill, these changes will have an immediate effect, whereas the Immigration Bill will not become law without passing through Parliament, at which point it may be subject to change.
The Immigration Bill includes the following key proposals:
- Replacing the current independent right to appeal with a restricted right of administrative review; in effect sending the decision back to the original decision maker to reconsider.
- Introducing a duty on landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants.
- Refusing and revoking driving licences of migrants without leave to remain.
- Introducing a levy for migrants applying for entry clearance and leave to remain to go towards funding the NHS.
The changes appear to largely sensible, and likely to be beneficial to both migrants and sponsors, clarifying the options available and encouraging 'good immigration'.
They will also benefit businesses by allowing employees to attend training in the UK, while letting companies bring their employees into the UK to undertake audits of their UK entities.
It would appear that the Immigration Bill is intended to deal with the other side of the coin, by reducing 'mass immigration'.