Immigration Statement of Changes
Simon Higson provides commentary on The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules (HC1919), which makes changes to existing systems of migration, includes further changes to the EU Settlement Scheme, the introduction of two new visa types and the closure of Tier 1.
The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules (HC1919) released in March make a wide-ranging set of changes to existing systems of migration, whilst also bringing further changes to the EU Settlement Scheme. The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules introduces two new visa types for business entrepreneurs – Start Up and Innovator. The latest statement also confirms the closure of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category at the end of the month and in addition, changes to Tier 1 (Investor), Tier 2, Tier 4 and the EU Settlement Scheme. Perhaps the most striking of the changes is the clear commitment expressed within the changes and the explanatory memorandum to ending the points-based system (‘PBS’). We take a look at the changes that are likely to be of most relevance to our clients.
Start-up and Innovator visa categories
The Start Up category is an expanded version of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. Intended for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK, applicants do not need to be graduates nor have secured funding. They will however require an endorsement from an approved endorsing body which will assess their business idea. As with the Innovator route, the endorsing body must confirm that the applicant’s business idea is innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants will need to be able to speak English at level B2 CEFR. Successful applicants will be granted two year’s leave and will be able to progress into the Innovator category
The Innovator category is intended for more experienced business persons who will need to invest £50,000 in a UK based business from any legitimate source, reduced from £200,000 for most Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applicants. Innovators will now be required to obtain an endorsement from a trusted UK body, such as a government agency or an accelerator. The endorsing body will be required to judge the applicant’s business plan to assess if the business is innovative, viable and scalable. If the application is approved, the applicant will have to stay in contact with the endorsing body, checking in with them after 6, 12 and 24 months.
Tier 1 (Investor) visa category
Individuals applying in this category will need to demonstrate that the required investment funds of £2 million have been held by the applicant for a minimum of two years before application, rather than held for 90 days as is the case currently. The application will need to confirm that investment is in UK businesses rather than Government bonds also require written assurance from a UK bank that all due diligence checks have been carried out regarding money laundering regulations.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category
This category will be closed to new applicants on 29 March 2019. Extensions to current visas will still be allowed under transitional arrangements introduced. It will however be a requirement that applications to extend provide an overview of their business activities. It will be possible to apply to extend a visa until 5 April 2023 and apply for ILR in this category until 5 April 2025. If an applicant is not able to apply for ILR before this date, they will be forced to switch into a different category of visa.
Tier 2 visa category
The appropriate salary rates under Tier 2 are being amended so that applicants must earn a minimum of £30,000 to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa. Changes are also being introduced to amend the Codes of Practice, resulting in an increase in the minimum salary sponsors will need to pay applicants for many SOC Codes. The exemption from the minimum £30,000 salary for certain professions have been extended which include nurses, paramedics, medical radiographers, and secondary school teachers in mathematics, computer science physics, chemistry and Mandarin. In addition, revisions to the Tier 2 (General) Restricted category quota application process is anticipated will result in more successful applications each month.
Tier 4 Student visa category
The list of ‘low risk’ nationalities has been updated to include nationals from Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Oman, Peru and Tunisia. However, nationals from Argentina, the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago will be removed from this list and means nationals of those countries will have to provide evidence of their money and qualifications when applying for a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.
EU Settlement Scheme
The scheme was currently in a trial phase for certain EU nationals but from 30th March, is fully open for all EU citizens. In addition, applications from nationals of EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and nationals of Switzerland, along with their family members will be accepted. Eligible applicants will also be able to make an application under the scheme from overseas so long as required proof of entitlement to do so is provided, namely a valid passport or national identity card so long as such card has an interoperable biometric chip. In certain circumstances alternative evidence of entitlement to apply from outside the UK may be provided. Delays to Brexit caused by the extension of Article 50 in Parliament has yet to clarify what, if any, changes to application dates or processes may occur, but it is still anticipated that previous reported deadlines will be adhered to for the moment. Read FAQ – Employees coming to work in the UK for more information on the EU Settlement Scheme.
The Home Office fees for immigration and nationality applications that apply from 29 March 2019 shows that most remain unchanged from this year. There are minimal increases in visit visa fees and larger ones to some premium services. Fees for the new Innovator and Start-up visas have been set at the same rate as the previous categories of graduate and graduate entrepreneur routes. Though Home Office fees are not rising, the Immigration Health Surcharge – paid at the point of application by people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are seeking to live in the UK for six months or more to work, study or join a family – doubled in January 2019 to £400 per year per person. Projections suggest that the increased charges may provide around £220m extra every year, with this money going to NHS services.
Home Office compliance visits
It is an inevitable consequence when significant changes to the immigration rules take place, that compliance of these changes in immigration regulations are going to be scrutinised. It is imperative therefore that Sponsor Licence Holders ensure they are up-to-date with HR requirements, document keeping and employee records to enable they remain compliant within the Home Office guidance as required.
Avoid issues, scrutiny and penalty by keeping on top of your duties. A neglected licence may cause issues at renewal stage. An immigration audit can also be extremely helpful in identifying potential issues before the Home Office audit team visits. If you are unsure about any aspect of your duties as a sponsor licence holder, here at K2 we can provide assistance with these compliance checks by offering mini audits to ensure your HR systems are robust and meet the required guidelines.
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The Home Office has announced new record keeping guidelines for all Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors.
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