On 7 December 2017 a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules was published outlining a number of amendments which will (in the main) take effect in the New Year. The full Statement of Changes and Explanatory Memorandum can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statement-of-changes-to-the-immigration-rules-hc309-7-december-2017. This post looks at some of the more significant amendments and how they will affect applicants.
In 2018 UK Visas and Immigration will begin the move towards electronic entry clearance, replacing the current process of endorsing visa stamps into an applicant's passport. The new electronic system will be rolled out gradually, and details are not yet confirmed as to where it will begin. This is hopefully a positive step towards a more convenient and efficient application process, perhaps allowing all visa applicants to retain their passports while applications are considered.
The exclusive Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route is being expanded, with the annual number of places available doubled from 1000 to 2000. In another welcome move, an accelerated settlement route is being introduced, mirroring the enhanced options available under other Tier 1 routes for those that excel (in the Exceptional Talent category this will be restricted to established talent applicants as opposed to those under the promise criteria).
The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will see a number of changes, some of them more useful to applicants than others. A positive example is the removal from the rules of the requirement for Real Time Submissions to HMRC to include an employee's start date; this was often impossible for an applicant to meet and has led to refusals which are wholly unreasonable. However, a less welcome change is the clarification to available funds for new entrepreneur applicants, which will no longer be permitted from a third party who is a 'close family member'. This new provision is ambiguous, to be decided on a case-by-case basis, and new applicants are therefore encouraged to plan their applications well in advance to ensure their funding is acceptable.
The Tier 2 route is largely unchanged, but one helpful amendment is the removal of the requirement for a former student to have received their qualification before they can benefit from favourable switching provisions. This often worked to the detriment of Master's students, who have to wait for their graduations and therefore were prevented from switching.
Family members of PBS Migrants
The major change here is the introduction of an absences limit for the partner (but note, not the children) of a PBS Migrant. The new limit will reflect the requirements in PBS routes: a maximum 180 days' absence permitted in each of the 12-month periods leading to settlement in the UK. Although this new limit will be introduced in January 2018, it will only apply to trips completed after that date, meaning that applicants who have already travelled are not penalised.
Further amendments are applicable to Tier 2 (Sportsperson), Investors, Tier 4, Short-term Students and domestic workers, but these are minor or are clarifications of existing rules. The changes will also introduce new provisions relating to immigration bail.
When will the changes take effect?
Most of the amendments are being introduced in January 2018, but the more significant changes are not intended to apply retrospectively, and may not be applicable at all if an applicant already holds leave in the immigration category concerned.