United Kingdom – Government Publishes Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules

On November 3, 2016, the UK Home Office published the latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, which are due to take effect from November 24, 2016. The changes are largely the same as were announced earlier this year.

The statement is a comprehensive outline of detailed, technical changes to specific areas of immigration policy. However, the main amendments to Tier 2 General are as follows:

  • The salary threshold for experienced workers has been increased to £25,000 for the majority of new applicants (the salary threshold for new entrants has been held at £20,800). An exemption from this increase will apply for nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and Mandarin. The exemption will end in July 2019. For clarity, the salary thresholds are being set out in a new table.
  • As a transitional arrangement, the £25,000 threshold will not apply to workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) before November 24, 2016, if they apply to extend their stay in the category. The Government intends to increase the threshold to £30,000 in April 2017; there will be no such transitional arrangement for workers sponsored in Tier 2 (General) between November 24, 2016 and April 2017 – they will need to satisfy the £30,000 threshold in any future application.
  • UK graduates who have returned overseas have been weighted more heavily in the monthly allocation rounds under the Tier 2 limit. Graduates who apply in the UK continue to be exempt from the limit.
  • A change is being made to facilitate changes of occupation for applicants sponsored in graduate training programmes. This enables them to change occupation within the programme or at the end of the programme, without their sponsor needing to carry out a further Resident Labour Market Test or for them to make a new application.

The following additional changes to Tier 2 (General) are being made:

  • From April 2017, a change to the Rules for advertising via a milk round will be introduced, to close a loophole in which a sponsor can offer a job to a migrant four years after carrying out a milk round, without the need for a further recruitment search. Sponsors can continue to rely on a milk round which ended up to four years prior to assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship, but only providing the migrant was offered the job within six months of that milk round taking place.
  • Following a separate review by the MAC on nursing shortages, nurses are being retained on the Shortage Occupation List, but a change is being made to require a Resident Labour Market Test to have been carried out before a nurse is assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship. The rules regarding preregistration nurses are also being consolidated into a new paragraph 77K in Appendix A.

A number of changes are also being made in response to the review of Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer by the MAC, and have been previously announced. The changes include:

  • The salary for short term ICT applicants has been increased to £30,000 for new applicants. A transitional arrangement applies for those already in the UK under the short term route.
  • The closure of the Skills Transfer sub-category to new applicants.
  • Changes to the Graduate Trainee sub-category. The salary threshold has been reduced from £24,800 to £23,000 and the number of places a sponsor can use has been increased from 5 to 20 per year. As with Tier 2 (General), the salary thresholds are being set out in a new table for clarity.

In addition, a redundant paragraph relating to time spent working in the UK for the Sponsor is being removed. A change is being made to Appendix B to be clear that an applicant must provide official documentation produced by UK NARIC to confirm any assessment of their degree by UK NARIC.

Changes are being made to references to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), to reflect that UKTI is now a part of the Department for International Trade and that funding for its global graduate entrepreneur programme is now provided by an external supplier.

The provisions of the Immigration Rules in respect of maintenance requirements are amended to bring them in line with the equivalent provisions for Tier 2 migrants, providing A-Rated Tier 5 sponsors with the option of certifying maintenance in respect of a Tier 5 migrant by confirming that that they will maintain and accommodate the migrant for the first month of their stay. The rules are also amended to enable a Tier 5 sponsor to certify maintenance in respect of the dependants of a Tier 5 migrant.

While applications for further leave to remain for many rules-based applications are expected to be made before any existing leave expires, any period of overstaying for 28 days or less had previously not been a ground for refusal as far as those applications are concerned. This 28-day period was originally brought in so that people who had made an innocent mistake were not penalised but retaining it sends a message which is inconsistent with the need to ensure compliance with the United Kingdom’s immigration laws.

The 28-day period is, therefore, to be abolished. However, an out of time application will not be refused on the basis that the applicant has overstayed where the Secretary of State considers that there is a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative, provided the application is made within 14 days of the expiry of leave.