The Government has today laid a ministerial statement in Parliament outlining various worring changes to the Immigration Rules. Most of the changes are due to take effect on 6 April 2012, although some of the changes to Tier 2 will affect those who were granted leave after 6 April 2011.Key changes as identified by UKBA on their website are as follows:
Tier 2 – skilled workers
- Limiting the total amount of temporary leave that may be granted to a Tier 2 migrant to 6 years (which applies to those who entered after 6 April 2011).
- Introducing a new minimum pay requirement of £35,000 or the appropriate rate for the job, for Tier 2 general and sportsperson migrants who wish to settle here from April 2016 (with exemptions for those in PhD level and shortage occupation categories).
- Introducing a ‘cooling-off period’ across all the Tier 2 routes. Tier 2 migrants will need to wait for 12 months from the expiry of their previous visa before they may apply for a further Tier 2 visa.
- Introducing new post-study arrangements for graduates switching into Tier 2.
Overseas domestic workers
- Restricting all overseas domestic workers (ODW) to only work for the employer with whom they entered the UK, or whom they came to join.
- Removing the right for all migrants under the ODW category to apply for settlement.
- Strengthening the requirement for the employer of an ODW to provide evidence of an existing employer relationship, and introducing a requirement for agreed, written terms and conditions of employment to be produced, as part of the application for entry clearance.
- Permitting all ODWs who have applied for leave to enter or remain on or before 5 April 2012, to continue to be treated under Immigration Rules in place on that date.
- Restricting ODWs in private households to work for an employer who is a visitor to the UK. Permission to stay in the UK will be limited to a maximum of 6 months or the period of the employer’s stay whichever is shorter. Removing the current provision for ODWs to be accompanied by dependants.
- Permitting ODWs in diplomatic households to apply to extend their stay for 12 months at a time up to a maximum of 5 years, or the length of the diplomat’s posting, whichever is shorter.
Tier 4 – students
Implementing the final set of changes to the student visa system that were announced in March 2011, including:
- Extending the interim limit for sponsors that have applied for educational oversight and Highly Trusted Sponsor status and have not yet been assessed.
- Introducing limits on the time that can be spent studying at degree level.
- Lightening work placement restrictions.
Tier 5 – temporary workers
- Limiting the length of time temporary workers can stay in the UK, under certain Government Authorised Exchange schemes, to a maximum of 12 months. The schemes affected are intern, work experience and youth exchange type programmes.
- Allowing sportspersons who enter under the Tier 5 creative and sporting sub-category to undertake some guest sports broadcasting work where they are not filling a permanent position.
Tier 1 – high-value migrants
- Closing the Tier 1 (Post-study work) route.
- Introducing the new Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) route.
- Introducing new provisions for switching from Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Post-study work) into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).
- Renewing the 1000 place limit for Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) for each of the next 2 years.
Changes in all tiers of the points-based system
- Making curtailment mandatory where a migrant under Tiers 2, 4, or 5 of the points-based system has failed to start, or has ceased, their work or study with their sponsor. This includes cases where a sponsor notifies us, via the sponsor management system (SMS), that a migrant is no longer pursuing the purpose of their visa. The Rules will also set out the limited exceptions to mandatory curtailment.
- Reducing the curtailment threshold (the level of leave you have left which means that we will not normally pursue curtailment) from 6 months to 60 days.
- Increasing the funds applicants will need to provide evidence of, in order to meet the maintenance requirements for all routes in the points-based system. For Tier 4 and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme the changes will come into effect on 6 April 2012. For Tier 1, Tier 2 and temporary workers under Tier 5 the changes will come into effect on 14 June 2012.
- The new visitor route will allow a small group of professionals, artists, entertainers and sportspersons who are invited to come to the UK to undertake short-term permitted fee paid engagements for up to 1 month.
- Introducing a Premium Customer Service for those A-rated sponsors in Tiers 2 and 5 who wish to apply and pay for a range of benefits. We will publish the full range of service benefits in due course. The service will launch in the 2012-13 financial year.
In addition to these changes, the government is also making amendments to the extension of leave to remain.